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No Moral Authority... Civil rights activist lashes barefaced legislators who flout law

Published:Tuesday | September 29, 2015 | 9:00 AMGary Spaulding
Carol Narcisse

The Dorothy Pine-McLarty chaired Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) is being called out to explain why it has failed to bring to book, recalcitrant legislators who have refused to file returns on campaign expenses.

Civil society activist Carol Narcisse has charged that all too often, legislators are dismissive and disrespectful of their moral and legal obligations.

"Our political leaders are without moral authority to speak to the nation about observing laws and policies when they so barefacedly flout them," said Narcisse.

There are indications that candidates of previous general elections have also been recalcitrant.

Director of the National Integrity Action (NIA) Professor Trevor Munroe told The Gleaner that his organisation has, in the past, had to call out the ECJ.

"We wrote to the ECJ asking for the information on the delinquent persons," said Munroe, who said he was still examining the information.

Narcisse charged that legislators "clearly" made laws but had no intention of enforcing them.

The Representation of the People Act (ROPA) stipulates that: "A candidate contesting an election shall, within six weeks of Election Day, submit to the Electoral Commission a consolidated report, in the prescribed form, detailing all contributions/donations received within the campaign period.

ECJ negligent

Narcisse suggested that the ECJ has been negligent by its failure to address the issue.

"The relevant authorities which have enforcement powers must give an account of why it allowed persons to flout the law without consequence," she said.

The ECJ has disclosed that only 70 of the 150 candidates from the People's National Party (PNP), the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), third parties, and independents have filed.

The bulk of the delinquencies are from the JLP with 45 of its 63 standard-bearers failing to file returns along with 17 from the PNP.

This means that 62 of the 126 candidates from the two major political parties have breached the ROPA.

Another 18 of the 24 candidates in the categories of independents and third parties have not filed.

Although the filing should have been within six weeks of the December 29, 2011 General Election, nearly four years have passed and the delinquents have failed to do so.

"Four years have elapsed, so why is it taking so long for efforts to be made to enforce the law?" queried Narcisse.

No respect for laws

She stressed that the nation has ample evidence of the lack of respect on the part of the legislators, for the laws that they enact.

"This is not the first set of laws that they have flouted," said Narcisse. "Essentially, all the provisions that we have in place that are integrity-based, our leaders have failed to observe them.

Narcisse noted that many in the legislature are often late with filing their declaration of assets, among other things, to the Integrity Commission of Jamaica.

"Whether it's ROPA or other integrity-related legislation or provision, we see time and time again that our leaders fail to observe these measures of integrity," said Narcisse.

"They do not take seriously the provisions that have been put in place to protect the State," she complained. "So I don't know what they expect the rest of the nation to do."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com