Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Criminal sanctions for lying candidates, ECJ warns

Published:Friday | February 5, 2016 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
Director of Elections Orrette Fisher makes a point to Dorothy Pine-McLarty, chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), during a press conference held yesterday at the ECJ's St Andrew office.

The Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has issued a warning that a new provision on the nomination form means there will be no ease up on political candidates who lie about their nationality.

Selected commissioner Justice Karl Harrison yesterday highlighted the provision that threatened "dire straits" for candidates who make a false declaration with respect to citizenship status.

He warned that a breach of the new declaration constitutes a criminal offence and may carry prison and pecuniary sanctions.

Next Tuesday, all candidates for the upcoming general election will be required to sign the declaration aimed at preventing the recurrence of the dual-citizenship concerns that resulted in a number of court battles after the 2007 general election.

"The nomination form has been amended to include a declaration by the candidate as to his/her eligibility to be nominated," said Director of Elections Orrette Fisher during a press conference hosted by the ECJ.

Following the 2007 polls, a legal challenge was successfully launched by then People's National Party (PNP) candidate Abe Dabdoub against the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Daryl Vaz, who had defeated him in the polls.

This triggered a flurry of legal challenges in the aftermath of the 2007 polls. While the majority of dual-citizenship holders came from the JLP, the PNP was not spared.

Harrison confirmed that the decision to include the declaratory provision was as a result of what he dubbed the Dabdoub-Vaz court battle, the first such in Jamaica.

"The provisions in the Constitution remain intact, and so they apply even today, as far as the elections are concerned," he asserted.




Harrison stressed, however, that it was the first time that a declaration from the candidate has been included on a nomination form.

"The reason for this is due to the fact that we still have issues concerning dual nationalities," he said.

He, however, stressed that

this did not mean there are candidates who are in breach of the Constitution.

"We at the ECJ want to make it very clear that this is not acceptable ... ," he said. "The declaration of the candidates is required to be executed by the candidate on nomination day."

He added: "It is a solemn declaration made by each candidate and states, among other things, that 'by virtue of Section 39 of the Constitution, the candidate who is properly nominated is qualified to sit as a member in the House of Representatives'."

Section 39 of the Constitution states: "Subject to the provision of Section 40, any person, who, at the date of his appointment, on nomination for election, is a Commonwealth citizen, at the age of 21 years upwards and a resident in Jamaica for immediately preceding 12 months, shall be qualified to be appointed as a senator or elected as a member of the House of Representatives."

In respect of false declaration, Harrison referred to Section 40 of the Constitution, which speaks to the disqualification of membership of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Harrison noted that Section 41 states, among other things, "no person shall be qualified for an election... because he has been convicted of any offence connected with the election of members of that House".