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ECJ sets programmes in motion to enhance electoral process

Published:Thursday | February 5, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer Dorothy Pine-McLarty (left), chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, makes a point to selected commissioner Justice Karl Harrison during a press briefing at the commission's Red Hills Road, St Andrew office yesterday to discuss electoral matters.

Hampered by a shortage of funds, constitutional demands breathing down its neck, and faced with increased election buzz, the Dorothy Pine McLarty-chaired Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) and the Electoral Office of Jamaica have set in motion a raft of long-overdue programmes to enhance the electoral processes.

There were indications during a press conference yesterday that the cash-strapped administration has been tardy in supplying much-needed funding to enable the ECJ to push-start constitutional responsibilities.

A comprehensive voters' reverification programme has been late in coming, but the Portia Simpson Miller administration has promised to treat the ECJ better in the upcoming financial year.

The commissioners are also in support of opposition Member Delroy Chuck's call for the ECJ to be pivotally involved in the ongoing enumeration process, with independent member Earl Jarrett pointing out that it is already a legal requirement.

 

HAMPERED BY NEGLECT

 

But even as the ECJ ventures on a house-to-house enquiry and reverification exercise, among other activities, it appears that the body, constantly lauded by the political directorate for its commendable work, has been hampered by government neglect.

Pine-McLarty told journalists during the press conference at the ECJ's Red Hills Road offices in St Andrew that plans were in train to create a brand-new voters' list, instead of updating the existing one.

"The ECJ has, for some time, acknowledged the need to remove ineligible persons from the voters' list, and while the process is ongoing, through collaboration with the Registrar General's Department and other sources, we have recognised the need to have a comprehensive review," she said. "However, we have been hampered in carrying out this work, primarily by budgetary constraints."

 

$2-BILLION VENTURE

 

Pine McLarty noted that a house-to-house enquiry, which is expected to cost the ECJ $2 billion, will require a visit to every household in Jamaica.

This year, the commission has been assured that resources will be allocated to carry out this project.

But neither Pine-McLarty nor Director of Elections Orette Fisher was able to state a time frame within which the house-to-house reverification exercise would get under way.

They said that start-up and duration were all dependent on when in the upcoming financial year, and the portion of funding to be allocated.

But even as the ECJ moves to carry out its functions, another independent member of the ECJ, Justice Karl Harrison, cited long-overdue legislative recommendations to be addressed by Parliament as still pending.

Nine years after interim legislation was enacted to establish the ECJ, the promised entrenchment of the body is not yet a reality.

This proposal was atop five recommendations awaiting parliamentary attention.

There are four political representatives, including three parliamentarians, sitting with the four independent commissioners on the ECJ.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com