The Bloody General Election That Changed Jamaica
marked by over 800 murders in a bitter fight influenced by ideology.
evaporated, but matters centred on the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
continue to dog the nation on the 32nd anniversary of the infamous
national vote that changed Jamaica.
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) which thumped the People’s National Party
(PNP) by 51 seats to nine, a record margin of victory by any party up to
little political confrontation and death associated with it — the
conclusion drawn by political analysts is that Jamaica has matured.
statistics, a figure that political analysts believe — due to the
limitations and challenges in recording criminal activities at the time —
of West Central St Andrew, which had the JLP’s Ferdinand Yap and the
PNP’s Carl ‘Russian’ Thompson as candidates.
leading the PNP to a 37-16 seat victory over the JLP, and followed that
with another triumph over the Edward Seagaled JLP (47 to 13 seats) in
the December 1976 general election, gambled by calling an early election
on October 5 at a mass meeting in Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay, St
James. He had over a year left in his second term.
nightmare for the PNP and went against the scientific prediction of
respected pollster Carl Stone, now deceased, that the JLP would win a
minimum 40 of the 60-seat House of Representatives.
led by a team that included University of the West Indies academics Dr
Derek Gordon and Dr Paul Robertson, which predicted a massive PNP win.
in 1978 were becoming unbearable for the masses of the country and the
PNP was beginning to feel the heat.
IMF, Manley would walk out of the IMF and we were able to ride through
and win the election,” veteran JLP politician Pearnel Charles told the
Jamaica Observer yesterday.
Emergency, also used his experience in detention to send a message that
Jamaicans should have nothing more to do with the PNP.
the road and telling of the problems we had with the Government forcing
the 1976 election as a result of tactics.
West) and they took it and gave it to Portia (Simpson). At the time,
over 8,300 JLP people left the constituency. I was one of the regular
platform speakers and the message that we sent was that we would never
want another Government to lock up the Opposition and win,” Charles
He vowed that there would be no voting until the new voters list was
completed, a process that took eight months.
burning up the proletariat, the middle class and the unemployed.
further hardships, including a struggle to pay public servants; 11,000
of whom, he said, would have to be chopped from the State payroll in
order to shore up the $50-million budget for fiscal year 1980-81.
Public Service Company, that virtually plunged 70 per cent of Jamaica
occurred May 21. Police said that the building for the old and indigent
was torched by men from the South St Andrew constituency.
being killed in the JLP enclave of Gold Street, Southside in Central
Kingston in April, the same month in which the Hannah Town Police
Station was attacked by gunmen, with one policeman and a civilian dying
in the incident.
about opposition to its policies, the Jamaica Defence Force detained 24
soldiers and three civilians for allegedly plotting to overthrow the
Government. All 27 were later freed.
election, and there was further bloodshed in the St Elizabeth South
East community of Top Hill when JLP and PNP supporters clashed.
like Karl Samuda, Winston Spaulding, Douglas Vaz and others,” Charles
Duncan on the PNP side… we were deadlocked in the street — the JLP would
not move and the PNP would not move.
it ended with nobody getting hurt… they turned back and we turned back,”
said Charles, who went on to contest the St Thomas East seat and blew
away newcomer Winston Jones by over 5,000 votes.
former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer’s motorcade came under attack in
Falmouth; Manley’s team was attacked in Spanish Town… and there were
been quietly supporting the PNP, which ushered in more rumours of a
Communist takeover — a claim Manley consistently denied, even though his
friendship with Socialist Cuba strengthened.
and vowed never to do so again after what happened during the campaign,
described it as “the most awful period of Jamaica’s history”.
not go, but my driver went. When the vehicle got to a point, gunmen shot
it up on the side that I would have been sitting. Luckily, the driver
managed to get away safely,” said Dr Davidson, who polled 7,211 votes to
Dr Gilmour’s 11,961.
people lined up at polling stations from before six o’clock and still
did not get to vote.
polling stations, but [ballot] boxes were tampered with and even in
areas where people did not vote, there was a full count in the boxes.
stuck to that, even after Michael Manley asked me to run again in 1989.
house saying they were looking for weapons, they threw away my campaign
material in a gully and Herb Rose, my campaign manager, was locked up.
of Cuba and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on the one
hand, and the right of centre JLP, which was closer to the United
States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
also not clearly defined, although it appeared to be closest in
political systems of the Janos Kadar-led Hungary with its Democratic
Centralism — a system that had a mix of State ownership of the means of
production, distribution, exchange and, among others, the co-operative
system, as well as limited Capitalism.
a former deputy prime minister; former finance minister Eric Bell; and
one of the brilliant minds, Vivian Blake, who Manley defeated for the
leadership of the PNP on February 9, 1969, left the party.
cause either, with candidate for Clarendon North West and former
education minister Edwin Allen, among others, calling for him to be
declared persona non grata. Seaga duly obliged days after the election
and chopped ties with Cuba a year later.
including a telling blow on the banana industry, leaving behind damage
estimated at $155.5 million.
the backs of Manley and the PNP, the setbacks of the banana industry
added to a shortage of food, which miraculously was aplenty again a day
after the election.
policeman bodyguard, Acting Corporal Errol White, were killed by
policemen in Gordon Town Square a day before nominations opened.
Gordon (later married Webley), who in recent years became executive
director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority.
election. Seaga’s promise of making money “jingle in yu pockets” was now
eagerly anticipated, even as DK Duncan lashed the electoral system as
Committee, Professor Gladstone Mills and Director of Elections Carl
Dundas, whom he said failed to clamp down on electoral malpractices.
Dundas emigrated to the USA mere days after.
Desmond Leaky, Arnold Bertram, Sydney Pagon, Derrick Rochester, Winston
Jones, Jack Stephenson, OD Ramtallie, Ruddy Lawson, Jim Thompson, and
in anthropology, to take charge as Jamaica’s fifth prime minister and
the healing process begun in earnest.