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Peaceful poll please - Comrades, Labourites in battleground seat say no to political violence

Published:Tuesday | February 16, 2016 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
On Ivy's Corner in August Town in Eastern St Andrew, with PNP supporters.
JLP supporters on Charvis Avenue in Eastern St Andrew, on the corner.

Residents in the tough St Andrew communities of August Town and Back Bush in St Andrew Eastern have declared that there will be no return to the political violence that caused them to bury numerous relatives and friends over the years despite a tight contest for the seat.

With the general election just days away, campaigning has taken place in the constituency in a fierce, but peaceful, atmosphere, and the residents say that despite their loyalty to the People's National Party (PNP) - in August Town - and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in Back Bush, they are urging other inner-city areas to follow their example.

"We as a people down here, we are above that (election violence). That is barbaric! We above that. We are not barbaric down here," declared Venesha Williams, a PNP supporter from August Town, during an On the Corner discussion forum hosted by The Gleaner in the community recently.

It was a message echoed by Marilyn Smith, a JLP supporter from Back Bush, a small community located off Mountain View Avenue.

"We are one black people, one Jamaica. We all have to go to one another 'nine-night' (wake). We tired a dis foolishness," Smith insisted during a similar forum in her community.

"Whoever wins (the election), we still have to pay light (electricity) bill, water, and telephone," Smith underscored.

August Town and Back Bush are among several inner-city communities that have seen some of the deadliest election violence in past years.

Pointing out that there has been no election-related violence in August Town in recent polls, Garfield Thomas said that this was the result of a deliberate decision among residents that "we are going to let our community breathe".

"We are going to live in peace and love, and unity, with or without an election," he insisted.

According to Thomas and Williams, this resolve was put to the test when JLP leader Andrew Holness and throngs of supporters staged a march through the PNP stronghold recently. They were enthused that August Town passed the test with flying colours.

"We were out there with our flags an' a sing we song an' a gwaan. The Labourite dem come off a dem bus, and when we a dance an' a sing, dem deh behind we a jump an' a shout fi dem Shower while we a shout Power," Williams recounted.

"A just love. We nuh have no time fi political warfare," she insisted.

It was the same story from Kenisha Crossdale, a JLP supporter who, like other Labourites in the constituency, is adamant that the February 25 election will be peaceful.

"We waan live good. We can't a bury dead every week," said Crossdale.

"We waan show dem say Mountain View (Avenue) change now. Anybody can come Mountain View. All the people from Beverly Hills, Strawberry Hill, Cherry Hill, dem can come a Mountain View now because Mountain View is a peaceful place.

"We nuh have nothing 'gainst the PNP dem. We just nah vote fi dem," she added.

Residents from both communities urged other political enclaves to follow their example, with August Town resident Michael Rutherford pointing to the peaceful atmosphere across his community as one of the benefits to be derived.

"We in August Town, which people class as the murder capital in past years, are telling you that if it can stop in August Town, it can stop anywhere," said Rutherford.