Sun | May 26, 2019

No hanky-panky on Thursday, warn by-election observers

Published:Tuesday | April 2, 2019 | 12:18 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
From left: Professor Trevor Munroe, executive director of National Integrity Action (NIA); Lloyd Barnett, chairman of Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE); and Anton Thompson, director of CAFFE, address the media at an NIA-CAFFE joint press conference last Thursday.
From left: Professor Trevor Munroe, executive director of National Integrity Action (NIA); Lloyd Barnett, chairman of Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE); and Anton Thompson, director of CAFFE, address the media at an NIA-CAFFE joint press conference last Thursday.

The leaders of the joint observer team for Thursday’s by-election in East Portland have declared that any breaches of the electoral process will be reported and the necessary action taken by the relevant authorities.

Citizens Action for Fair and Free Elections Chairman Dr Lloyd Barnett and National Integrity Action Executive Director Professor Trevor Munroe said their observer mission is a measure of the maturing of Jamaica’s electoral process, even as they reiterated that the members of their team will only be on the ground in the capacity of observers.

Immediate reporting

“We have had a very good relationship with the Electoral Commission [of Jamaica] and with the director of elections and they are aware of and, in fact, have given specific certification for the purposes of observing. But we are observers and, therefore, what we do is to report if anything goes wrong, but the cooperation has led to an effective method of immediate reporting. So we don’t have to wait until after elections if something is going wrong. We can report immediately to the director of elections and to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica,” Barnett said.

While members will be dispatched to the polling stations across the constituency on the day Ann-Marie Vaz of the governing Jamaica Labour Party and Damion Crawford of the opposition People’s National Party vie for the seat, the organisations will have a representative at the election centre throughout the day.

“The purpose of the representative is to be directly involved in dealing with whatever reports of malpractice or inappropriate behaviour and managing to cooperate with the ombudsman, as well as the director of elections in dealing with it immediately,” Munroe pointed out.

While celebrating this progress, Barnett and Munroe lamented that there is still a lot more to be done in terms of electoral reform. One glaring area of concern relates to the fact that candidates are not obligated to sign the political code of conduct. The issue came to the fore recently when Vaz refused to sign the document on March 18, pointing the finger at what she said was Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown’s failure to address concerns over comments made by Crawford. Vaz eventually signed the agreement days later.

For Munroe, the code, which has operated as a gentleman’s agreement, needs to be made a mandatory part of the process.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com