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EDITORIAL - Warmington's motion

Published:Saturday | April 28, 2012 | 12:00 AM

His frequent outbursts and general conduct in the House of Representatives have caricatured South West St Catherine Member of Parliament Everald Warmington as something of a bully. In the past, he has faced dual citizenship troubles, and his handling of the matter by deceptively remaining in the House illegally and his obvious disdain for the media showed off his arrogant side and created quite a backlash.

If one were to break down feelings for Mr Warmington along demographic lines, one would most likely find that his likeability among women was pretty low, given his treatment of a female news anchor who dared to question his intentions. This prompted protests from some women and media groups back then.

To his credit, at different times, the MP has demonstrated an independence of thought by going against his own Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) on some issues. In what seems a bit contradictory for this loud-mouthed politician, he has often stood alone on matters of principle.

Now Mr Warmington has brought a private member's motion to the House seeking to have political parties pay their members who serve on the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) instead of being funded from the public purse. In articulating his reason, Mr Warmington said, "The paramount interest of those nominated members is to act as protectors of the interest of their political parties and not the people of Jamaica."

He has called for immediate termination of payments from the public purse to the four political representatives. The JLP is represented by Senator Tom Tavares-Finson and Aundre Franklin, while the People's National Party is represented by MPs D.K. Duncan and Peter Bunting.

From all assessments, the ECJ has served Jamaica well. The bipartisan nature of the body has resulted in greater integrity in the electoral process. For example, the recent realignment of constituency boundaries was done seamlessly and without much controversy.

Is warmington self-serving?

A politically sensitive debate will no doubt ensue on this motion. If truth be told, who holding down a part-time job worth $8 million a year would want that changed?

In raising this issue of compensation, the risks are many, and the chances of succeeding with such a motion slim, but that has not put off Mr Warmington. Sceptics may even ask whether Mr Warmington is sincere or whether he is merely seeking to exploit, to his benefit, the current anti-politician sentiment.

We suggest that before we dismiss Mr Warmington's efforts as self-serving, let us remember that political parties are first and foremost about campaigning and electioneering. In other words, political parties are about ensuring their existence through victory at the polls. Should the country really have to fund their input on the ECJ?

Some argue that with schools teetering on the brink of existence, civil servants' hopes of a pay raise dashed, and a financially strapped Treasury, it is ill-advised to continue channelling money to pay political representatives on the ECJ.

That may be moot for those concerned about a discordant message.

But more to the point, a sharp contrast can be drawn in the treatment of directors on public-sector boards, for instance. Directors are being relied on more and more to contribute to the reform of governance practices, including accountability. Their compensation for board meetings and committee meetings is a small fraction of what the ECJ members are paid each year.

Is there a lesson to be learnt from this?

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