Fri | Apr 3, 2020

Phillips wants independent ECJ commissioners to speak out

Published:Saturday | March 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dr Peter Phillips, (right) PNP President and Opposition Leader and Fitz Jackson (left), PNP Chairman address members of the media during a Post-Budget Debate press briefing at party headquarters in St Andrew yesterday.

A call has been made for the independent commissioners of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) to break their silence if they feel that the electoral system is being brought into disrepute.

Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips, who urged the commissioners to speak out, argued that the hard-won stability of Jamaica's electoral system had come under threat with the recent resignation of director of elections Orrette Fisher, who alleged that there had been political interference in the conduct of his job.

"We are beginning to lose confidence that the normally high standards of integrity that attach to the whole administration of the electoral system are being questioned. I put it no higher than that at this point in time," said Phillips.

Addressing journalists at a post-Budget Debate press conference at the People's National Party headquarters on Old Hope Road in Kingston, Phillips said that the independent members of the ECJ had a responsibility, not to the Government or Opposition, but, ultimately, to the country.




"They have access to the good offices of the governor general if they feel that his intercession in the matter might assist. The judges sought that when they felt they were not getting a proper response (in the decision by Prime Minister Holness to appoint Bryan Sykes an acting chief justice). They (independent commissioners) have access to the general public to speak out and not to be diffident in defence of the public interest," Phillips asserted.

The opposition leader reasoned that Jamaicans had worked too long and hard to develop a credible electoral system, which has received both regional and international acclaim, for it to be brought into question at this time.

"For the first time since 1979, we are beginning to see the unravelling of these confidences. We need to put a stop to it before it goes too far, and there is a particular obligation that falls to the independent members in this regard."

The ECJ held a meeting yesterday, in the wake of Fisher's resignation on Wednesday, to install an acting director of the Electoral Office of Jamaica.

The four independent commissioners of the ECJ are Dorothy Pine-McClarty, chairman; Professor Alvin Wint; Justice Karl Harrison; and Earl Jarrett.