By Larry Waight
The sudden resignation of Hon. Joseph Mahmud this week from his post as member of the The House of Representatives for Cayo North electoral division triggered the need for a by-election.
The law gives the ruling UDP Prime Minister discretion to call the by-election between 21 to 90 days from the date of resignation. He chose January 5, 2015, obviously trying to take advantage of the fact that his caretaker for the division has been in place since February, while the opposition PUP did not yet have a candidate.
Yesterday, the PUP decided unanimously at a meeting of the National Executive to choose Richard Harrison to contest the by-election on the party’s behalf. In a press briefing held after the meeting, the party leader Francis Fonseca stated that it was the party’s assessment that Harrison was in the better position to win the seat for the PUP. Harrison, from the time he agreed to contest, had been calling for an open, free and fair convention so that the people of Cayo North could decide who to represent them in the by-elections.
In his comments to the press, Richard Harrison invited the UDP caretaker, Omar Figueroa, to debate him in public on issues of interest to the people of Cayo North. He believes that since the time is very short, a televised debate, along with radio feed, would allow for both candidates positions on the issues to be efficiently and effectively communicated to the voters of Cayo North, since the time does not allow for complete coverage of the division by either candidate with house-to-house campaign.
The call for this debate is consistent with the fact that the job they both seek requires they debate issues of interest to their constituents in the House of Representatives, and such a debate would demonstrate their skills and preparedness for the job.
Since this challenge was made, discussion has gone viral on social media and on the streets with many constituents expressing their desire for this debate to happen.
The value of such a debate would be higher the sooner a date is set for it. It has been suggested that Monday, December 8 at 7pm would allow each candidate a little over a week to prepare, and a time of high listenership for greatest outreach.
Sacred Heart College would serve the community well if it offered to organize the debate forum at its new auditorium, inviting all its students to attend. The debate should require a balanced moderator who would ask the candidates previously agreed questions. It should invite all radio and television broadcasters to air the debate live, since this by-election will be of interest to the nation as a whole.
Mr. Omar Figueroa, nor his UDP party, has not yet expressed willingness to accept the challenge from Mr. Richard Harrison. The constituents of Cayo North will likely take the results of this debate as a barometer on the candidate’s ability and preparedness to represent their best interest in the House of Representatives. Both candidates and their constituents stand to gain from such a debate, especially since the time given for the by-election is so short.
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