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Ombudsman to probe vote-buying charges

Published:Friday | April 5, 2019 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer

Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown is investigating what she has called credible allegations of vote-buying in yesterday’s high-stakes Eastern Portland by-election.

Parchment Brown told The Gleaner that the police would be investigating the claims as her office seeks to make an example of possible lawbreakers.

“I think there are some credible allegations, and what I am in need of is additional information,” Parchment Brown stated.

She said the complaints have come from one particular party.

The political ombudsman said that while she herself did not witness any vote-buying, her office was interested in collecting licence plate numbers, locations, and eyewitness statements relating to the claims.

Parchment Brown stressed that even though the by-election was over, anyone found to be guilty of participating in vote-buying would be pursued.

“The fact that the election was over does not in any way stop any investigation related to the campaign and the election. There will be other elections, and we hope to learn, but we also want people to know that they cannot repeat their offences,” she said.

Vote-buying is illegal under Section 91 of the Representation of the People Act.

Parchment Brown specifically expressed concern about the contents of a story published in yesterday’s online edition of The Gleaner.

The story read: “Immediately after exiting the polling station at Windsor Primary in the Fellowship division, the young woman approached another woman dressed in Jamaica Labour Party colours outside the polling station.

“Voter: ‘Do di maths. Mi do it, so come now before mi leave here so cause Mommy tell me fi ask fi yuh.’

“Party supporter: ‘Oh, you do it already? But a nuh mi yuh fi go to. See di man deh over deh suh. Just go over deh, whisper inna him ears. Tell him a mi sen’ yuh. Gwaan now.’

“The elector then made her way to a gold Suzuki Vitara parked opposite the polling station, knocked on the window and waited a few seconds before she was allowed entry.”

Satisfied with day’s activities

In the meantime, the political ombudsman said that she was generally satisfied with the day’s activities.

She told The Gleaner that she was in the election centre in Port Antonio, along with members of the security forces, the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica, National Integrity Action, and the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, observing the elections.

“We went out briefly for a couple hours during the course of the day to sort of take the temperature and make ourselves known to the voters. Essentially, it was a good day. All of the polling stations opened at 7 o’clock, as they should, and they closed at 5,” the political ombudsman said.

“Some of the polling stations had what they considered to be a delay, but really, maybe they had 20 or 30 people waiting to go in to vote. Sometimes they were elderly people who took a little bit longer or people without an ID who had to be identified out of the Black Book, and that took a little bit longer. But overall, certainly when we went on the road, the mood of the people was quite positive,” Parchment Brown stated.