Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Give political ombudsman teeth - OAS/EOM Mission

Published:Monday | February 29, 2016 | 2:00 AM

While it has lauded the work of the office of the political ombudsman in the recently concluded general election, the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS/EOM) has said that the office should be given more powers to make it more effective.

OAS/EOM Mission Chief Janet Bostwick said that the role of the ombudsman is valuable and that the office should be strengthened.

"I think that there should be some consideration to giving the political ombudsman some teeth so that the office can be more effective," she said.

The mission has cited the establishment of the office of the political ombudsman as one of the best practices of the electoral system in Jamaica.

"The EOM highly commends the institution and the work of the political ombudsman. The political ombudsman occupies a neutral space between the political forces in Jamaica and seeks to mediate and moderate unhelpful attitudes and actions in the political and electoral context," the EOM's preliminary report said.

Controversial Member of Parliament Everald Warmington had called for the office of the political ombudsman to be scrapped after Bishop Herro Blair resigned from the post in 2013.

Jamaica's first ombudsman was Resident Magistrate Errington Green, who was appointed in 1977, and the second was Justice James Sewell Kerr, OJ, QC, appointed in 1988. Bishop Herro Blair was appointed in 2002.

The current ombudsman is attorney-at-law Donna Parchment-Brown.

According to the OAS/EOM, the role of the political ombudsman is especially valuable in countries where political polarisation is present.

"The EOM encourages the people of Jamaica to continue to work with this important national institution to embed a positive, inclusive, and peaceful political process. The country's success in moving beyond the challenges of its electoral history is an important accomplishment that must be upheld," Bostwick said.