"WHAT!" exclaimed Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, chairman of the People's National Party's (PNP) 75th Anniversary Awards Committee, when The Gleaner informed him of Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) Chairman Dr Herbert Thompson's resignation yesterday.
"I am extremely disappointed that that had been the result. I deeply regret any contribution I made towards that decision. It was very clear in my mind - and in the mind of the organisers of the event - that the award was to the ECJ, received by Dr Thompson," an apparently stunned Whiteman told The Gleaner.
The ECJ head threw in the towel following Opposition Leader Andrew Holness' call for his resignation.
Holness said Thompson's judgement has been called into question after he collected an award from the PNP for the ECJ's service to national life at the PNP's 75th anniversary awards ceremony last week.
Holness said the "acceptance of an award by any member of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica from a political party seriously damages the perception of independence and the credibility of the commission".
Thompson, in his resignation letter which takes immediate effect, said the controversy which surrounded his receipt of the award, on behalf of the ECJ, left him no option but to resign.
MEANT TO HONOUR ECJ
He insisted that the award was meant to honour the work of the ECJ in building Jamaica and was never meant for him personally.
Early yesterday morning, Thompson sent a letter to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen saying he would quit as chairman of the electoral body.
His resignation was accepted by Sir Patrick, who thanked him for his service to the ECJ, on which he will continue to serve as a member.
Whiteman had earlier apologised for what he described as "infelicities in a section of the letter written to you (Thompson) on September 10", adding that he took "full responsibility".
He told The Gleaner that the PNP had no intention to involve Thompson "in any improper association or to cast any shadow over his impartiality by any means".
Describing Thompson as "an extraordinarily fine gentleman", Whiteman said the former ECJ head had demonstrated his competence and generosity of spirit when he worked alongside him as a member of the Electoral Advisory Committee (EAC), now the ECJ.
SHOWED NO BIAS
"He is a very thorough, discerning, and balanced individual who showed no political bias of any kind during the time I served with him on the EAC," Whiteman stressed.
Whiteman expressed hope that in the future, Thompson would again rise to the leadership of the electoral body.
In a release, JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang welcomed Thompson's resignation, pointing out that his position had become untenable. The JLP said the ECJ chairman's decision was the "honourable thing to do".
Thompson accepted the Percival Patterson Award on behalf of the ECJ, which was honoured for its contribution in building national unity.