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Forbidden! - Political ombudsman says dirty money and intimidation outlawed in upcoming election

Published:Tuesday | February 2, 2016 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Donna Parchment Brown

As the Office of the Political Ombudsman heightens plans for all candidates to reaffirm or initiate the signing of the Political Code of Conduct, the woman given the mandate to police the process in the run-up to elections has sounded a warning that the use of "dirty money" in the campaign and intimidatory tactics is forbidden.

Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown told The Gleaner that the declaration and agreement on the Political Code of Conduct forbade the use of weapons and ammunition to gain political advantage

"I am clear on the fact that the leadership, the membership, the supporters of all political actors and organisations in Jamaica, as well as the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force), the army and all other entities with authority are being called upon to treat this election as an opportunity to show the best side of the Jamaican people," she declared.

"Jamaicans are a very respectful people, Jamaicans are very humorous people; let's show that part of Jamaica in these elections," she added.

Portia's plea

On Sunday, when Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced February 25 as the date Jamaicans will choose a new government, she told thousands of supporters in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, to conduct themselves peacefully during the election campaign.

"Let us ensure that we don't say things that will incite violence, let us ensure that we don't say things that are slanderous or write things that are libellous. Malicious statements are forbidden," Parchment Brown cautioned.

While acknowledging that candidates are free to engage each other in a robust contest in a democracy, Parchment Brown said many things that are said on political platforms would prove incredible if there was a fact-checking service in Jamaica.

She said allegations of corruption ought not be made unless the speaker can back it up with the facts.

"It is very important that when we are going to make a statement about someone, or an institution, that we actually have facts."

Parchment Brown said her office has

designated February 11-13 for the signing

of the code by all candidates, including independents.

She told The Gleaner that her office is working with custodes in all the parishes to organise a series of events where candidates and civic leaders and the media will be invited to observe the candidates sign their commitment to live by the code.

"Every election, the candidates are being called on to reaffirm or to initially indicate their adherence to the code. Now to make that meaningful, I am not going to assume that all candidates are familiar with the code or that once they have a copy and read it they know what to do."

The political ombudsman said that at the signing event, a presentation will be made on the main points of the code.

"I would expect that every candidate would know that they should sign the code and that they should comply with what they have signed. They will be bound by it ... agreements that have been entered into over many years in Jamaica."

On Sunday, February 7, the Office of the Political Ombudsman will publish in the two main newspapers the Political Code of Conduct so that members of the public can have access to the document.