'CLEAN SLATE' - JLP and PNP pledge to nominate eligible candidates
On the eve of nomination day for the December 29 general election, the country's two major political parties have claimed a slate of clean candidates. This comes against the background of a controversial dual-citizenship saga that engulfed the nation after the last polls in September 2007.
Legal challenges brought through the courts found that five of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) 32 members of parliament (MPs) were ineligible to sit in the House of Representatives because their dual-citizenship status breached a provision of the country's Constitution.
As a result, in addition to the $1.6-billion price tag for the 2007 general election, over $106 million was spent for five by-elections.
These were called after the court ruled that the sitting members of parliament were ineligible because they held dual-citizenship status.
Orrette Fisher, director of elections, told The Sunday Gleaner that the total cost of the by-elections "was influenced by whether or not electronic equipment was used, whether the Opposition contested, number of candidates and size of the constituencies".
However, both the JLP and the People's National Party (PNP) camps said they have implemented measures to ensure that after the December 29 polls, taxpayers are not saddled with another round of by-election expenditure caused by candidates who have pledged allegiance to a foreign power outside of the Commonwealth.
"The PNP requires all its candidates to sign a declaration of their nationality status, and we are satisfied that all our candidates are eligible to be elected in accordancewith the Constitution of Jamaica," read a response from Senator Mark Golding.
General secretary of the JLP, Senator Aundré Franklin, told our news team that his party has strengthened its due-diligence capabilities since September 2007. "Candidates are interviewed by our Selection Committee and Operation Committee, and the matter of citizenship is thoroughly investigated to the satisfaction of the party," he said.
With reference to whether a more thorough check could have been done for the 2007 polls to avoid the by-elections that followed, Golding said "each political party should have done its best to ensure that their candidates met the eligibility requirements stipulated by the Constitution of Jamaica". He argued that his party attempted to do this.
"Both 2007 PNP candidates, who were the subject of subsequent challenges, declared to the party that they were eligible. When it became clear that Sharon Hay-Webster had repudiated her commitment to renounce her foreign citizenship, the PNP obtained her resignation from the party.
"But the JLP, having sued her, has accepted her into their party and made her a JLP candidate in the upcoming election," stated Golding.
Franklin took the position that "post-general election 2007, the judiciary made a determination that by-elections should be held. The Jamaica Labour Party, in all cases, has abided by the instruction of the courts and held the necessary by-elections".
no dark cloud
Meanwhile, both parties have also vowed to nominate clean candidates who have no dark cloud of corruption over their heads. According to the JLP's general secretary, "I can assure Jamaica that none of our candidates is corrupt."
The PNP's Golding made the same claim. "We have required all our candidates to undergo rigorous 'fit and proper' screening before the five-member Integrity Commission established by the party (a majority of whom are not members of the party)," noted Golding.
The PNP senator also revealed that the party's internal screening process "resulted in a few persons who had put themselves up as candidates not being allowed to go forward".
He added: "We are satisfied that none of our candidates is involved in moral turpitude such as to make them inappropriate to be parliamentarians."