Fri | Apr 12, 2024

History of local government between 1866 and 1923

Published:Monday | February 26, 2024 | 12:06 AM


It was 158 years ago in 1866 that Governor Sir Peter Grant began the process of local government reform when Law 8 was passed by the Legislative Council as a part of the new constitutional arrangements of the colony authorising the appointment of annual municipal boards and road boards to replace the elected vestries and old commissioners of highways and bridges.

In 1867, the governor introduced Law 20 that reduced the 15 parishes around Spanish Town to seven while keeping seven older parishes west of the capital.

In 1885, due to the emergence of Afro Jamaican activists, the governor introduced new laws that opened the way for elected parochial boards.

In 1923, “A Law to constitute the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew a municipal corporation, to incorporate the inhabitants thereof and to provide good governance of the said parishes and for other purposes, incidental thereto:” which was read a third time and passed on March 20 and received the governor’s assent on May 1. However, there were objections by members of the electorate who signed a petition listing 18 reasons for opposing the law and published ‘Against the Amalgamation Bill’, in The Daily Gleaner of Monday, May 28, 1923. A few of these objections are:

(g) The Law was passed without being referred to a Select Committee of the Legislative Council: notwithstanding a motion so to do, which was not put to vote, on the ground, contrary to parliamentary practice, that the Law had already passed the third reading: and in fact without any public enquiry as to its provisions: and despite petitions against it and opposition by Counsel at the Bar of the Legislative Council…”

(n). The Law treats the general body of the Electorate as unworthy of confidence, and as if it had proved itself an enemy of the State….”

(o). The principle of the Law is retrograde and reactionary. It arrests the political progress of the country and may prove ultimately subversive of peace, happiness, contentment, unity and good order to the land.”

I wonder if objection (o) is prophetic? In a letter, ‘Stem the demise of Kingston’ ( The Gleaner July 15, 2022), I wrote the following:

“We, as a people, keep fooling ourselves by failing to recognise that our roller coaster murder rates and proliferation of gangs had its genesis in our tribal politics and their struggle for control of Kingston. It is our violent political tribalism that is inherent in our two-party system that has blighted the social geography of the parish of Kingston, and has left, after 60 years, an indelible marked of violence in the old capital, which, in turn, has impacted on the entire state of Jamaica.”


Mandeville, Manchester