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Local Government Minister tables temporary amendment to ROPA -Bill will postpone Local Government Elections up to February 2022

KINGSTON, Jamaica: The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development piloted a Bill to amend the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) to effectively postpone the Local Government polls no later than February 2022.

The Bill entitled An Act to Temporarily Modify the Representation of the People Act was tabled in the House of Representatives.

The postponement is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse economic conditions which worsened with the recent rains that resulted in widespread damage.

“It is clear that a greater period of time is needed for this recovery process. Accordingly, the Representation of the People Act is being temporarily amended, to facilitate the holding of the next Local Government Elections on a date no later than February 27, 2022,” said Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie in his address to Parliament on Tuesday.

“As the Minister responsible for Local Government, and a member of the Government led by the Most Honourable Prime Minister, I wish to assure the House and the country of our commitment to having the next Local Government Elections, the 13th since Independence, within this amended timeframe.”

Local Government Elections were last held on November 28, 2016 when Councillors for 228 parochial divisions and the Mayor of Portmore were elected to serve at the local level.

The 8th Schedule to the Local Governance Act provides a period of extension of 90 days commencing on the day after the fourth anniversary of the date on which the most recent election was held.  This means that without the amendment, the next Local Government Elections were to be held no later than February 27, 2021.

Minister McKenzie emphasized that the Government is fully engaged in managing the COVID-19 pandemic that heavily disrupted the economy and society.

“The primary focus is still that of observing the health and safety protocols and keeping infection rates as low as possible. In addition to this, the Government continues to respond to the effects of the adverse weather systems of the past few weeks, which has seen extensive damage to our road network. The damage to parochial roads alone is estimated at J$1.5 billion,” he added.

“The Meteorological Service has advised that the forecast is for more rains past the end of the Atlantic Hurricane Season at the end of November, right into early 2021. The cost of staging elections at this time is also a major factor Madame Speaker, as the Government is responding to these realities in the context of financial constraints especially caused by COVID-19.”