Social scientists and researchers describe a garrison community as an area where at least 90 per cent of the eligible votes are cast for either the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) or the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP).
Those votes are usually secured by way of coercion, intimidation (both implicit and explicit) or through bribery. Another distinct characteristic of political garrisons is the refusal of many residents to pay utility bills. There is minimal investment in the area by the established private sector and whatever infrastructure is still standing is decayed and there is usually an absence of civic pride.
The motion by Warren Newby requests that the parliamentary committee examine the circumstances, which gave rise to garrison communities, and identify appropriate steps, legislation, programmes of work and timelines for the dismantling of those areas.
Newby is also urging the development of a programme, involving academia and other members of the public, to do away with garrison areas, and for the reintegration of the residents of these communities into the formal state systems of justice, law and order.
“Jamaica’s political landscape has been tarnished by the influence of criminal elements on the democratic process in a number of constituencies and communities in particular in Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine,” the motion stated.
Newby said that the criminal elements have captured communities, influenced political outcomes and controlled contracts for work on behalf of the state, in order to promote a political order of their choice, and to further their own criminal intentions.
Newby said that for many years, civil society has been calling for the dismantling of garrison constituencies and communities, and there are studies, which make recommendations for these communities to be disbanded.
Soon after he was sworn in as the island’s ninth prime minister on October 23, Andrew Holness gave a commitment to dismantle garrison communities in the country.
“It is time to end garrison politics,” he said. “This will not happen overnight and it should not happen by force. Both political parties have it in them to mutually agree to end the social construct of the garrison”.