Mon | Feb 6, 2023

ECJ sticks to English for polls

Published:Thursday | March 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

DESPITE SHARP criticisms from prominent voices in academia on his instruction to election workers last December to use standard English to address electors, Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) Chairman Professor Errol Miller says he does not intend to recant on the directive which remains in force for the March 26 local government elections.

"For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, we stand by it and I will defend my record on the dialect," Miller told journalists yesterday during a press conference at the ECJ headquarters on Red Hills Road in St Andrew.

Waxing poetic, the ECJ head reasoned, "Our dialect is the language of the soul. It is the language of intimate communication, but we also use English as our official language."

According to Miller: "We do not give instructions that way because you may do this to one and not the other. You have to use a single standard. You can't leave it to people to choose how to address an elector."

Dialect could be offensive

He suggested that the use of the dialect by election-day workers in communicating to electors might be accepted by some, but could be offensive to others.

"Whenever students go into examinations in all our institutions and they are asked to write papers, they write the papers generally in English.

"Our instruction is because of the normal usage. You address the person in standard Jamaican English."

However, Miller noted that if an elector chooses to converse in the dialect, the presiding officer then has the option to respond using Patois. He cautioned, though, that the election worker should not initiate dialogue and provide instruction in the vernacular.

Following Miller's comments on the issue in the run-up to the December 29, 2011 general election, professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Carolyn Cooper, took the ECJ chairman to task.

Describing Miller's then instruction as "discriminatory", Cooper said the ECJ chairman's declaration appeared to be "nothing more (or less) than class prejudice - a vulgar attempt to impose standards of correctness arbitrarily".