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New ombudsman needed before next election - Peart

Published:Thursday | August 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Michael Peart

Speaker of the House of Representatives Michael Peart says a new political ombudsman could be appointed in a matter of weeks.

The office, which reports to Parliament, has been vacant since the June 2013 resignation of Bishop Herro Blair.

Peart told The Gleaner yesterday that with the possibility of an early general election, the post needs to be filled.

"It is logical to assume that the post will soon be filled based on the soundings we're hearing about the possibilities of new elections, so things will be put in place to deal with that matter as soon as possible," said Peart.

The next general election is constitutionally due next year, but the governing People's National Party has been giving hints that one may be called soon.

Both the PNP and the oppo-sition Jamaica Labour Party have been intensifying their candidate-selection process.

Peart said no major reforms are to be expected of the Office of the Political Ombudsman.

"No, no. Outside of election season there might not be the obvious need for a political ombudsman, but once you're getting close to elections, then the need must be fulfilled. There's no other mechanism of managing the disruption for flare up, or discrepancies, or things of that nature between the parties," he said.

While in office, Blair had called for certain reforms to the office such as the power to mediate internal party matters.

waste of time

Opposition parliamentarian Everald Warmington has led calls for the office to be removed because, according to him, it is a waste of time and money.

Last September, Phillip Paulwell, the minister with responsibility for electoral matters, announced that Cabinet had rejected calls for the office to be axed and instead recommended that a new ombudsman be appointed.

Under the law, the governor general appoints a political ombudsman for a seven-year term to oversee the Political Code of Conduct.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com