EDITORIAL - EAC arrogance

Published: Friday | October 20, 2006 Comments 0

Most Jamaicans, we believe, have the utmost respect for the work of the Electoral Advisory Committee (EAC) and especially its independent members, who give invaluable service to Jamaica.

It is not without much effort and a great deal of skill on the part of persons, such as the late Professor Gladstone Mills and his successors down to Professor Errol Miller, the incumbent chairman, that Jamaica has transformed a notoriously bad electoral system into one which is respected enough by outsiders to ask for our help in fixing theirs. That is acknowledged.

But, while we do not believe or engage in false modesty, we are aware that success sometimes has a way of leading to arrogance. We hope that is not what we detected at the press conference held by the EAC on Wednesday, chaired by Professor Miller.

We, too, agree that the EAC should be transformed into an independent commission, freed of any remaining political fetters in its management of Jamaican elections. That, indeed, was the intention when the advisory committee was established 27 years ago.

We, however, do not see and cannot agree, that the EAC's primacy can, or should, be to the exclusion of any other discourse or debate on the conduct of politics and the processes for voting Jamaican governmental representatives. That would be anti-democratic and dictatorial.

It would take someone who is dead, comatose or exceedingly out of it to be unaware that the most compelling issue in Jamaica over the past fortnight has been the Trafigura affair: the case of the Dutch commodities trader that funnelled money to an account controlled by People's National Party executives, ostensibly as a gift to the PNP. It placed on the front burner the matter of how political parties should be funded, and how and if contributions should be reported.

These are questions that have been exercising the EAC, as they have Mr. Abe Dabdoub, an MP who went to the trouble of drafting and tabling in Parliament a bill on the matter in May of this year.

So, in the face of the Trafigura scandal last week, and the clear danger it highlighted for the purchasing of political power in Jamaica, the House, to the objection of the Opposition, opened debate on Mr. Dabdoub's bill.

In the Senate, Dr. Munroe tabled, and had debated a motion, setting a specific timetable for the EAC to deliver its own proposed guidelines, based on emerging political consensus in party and electoral financing. The Senate, in the process, delayed by a week debate on and passage of the bill to establish the electoral commission. Professor Mills is apparently peeved about the delay and that deadlines could be set for the EAC. Our real concern though, is that he declares himself "befuddled and perplexed" that there should be the need for a debate on the matter at all when "we have done all the work for them." This reeks of supercilious arrogance.

The Electoral Commission Bill should be passed with haste, but the Senate was right to debate this matter and, in particular, Mr. Dabdoub's bill, which does not affect the work being done by the EAC. A process has begun and minds are being focused. This can only be enhanced with the contribution of the EAC.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

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