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EDITORIAL - Mr Warmington has a point

Published:Monday | May 7, 2012 | 12:00 AM

It is not often that this newspaper finds itself in concert with Everald Warmington, the usually loud and attention-grabbing Jamaica Labour Party member of parliament (MP) for South West St Catherine.

But Mr Warmington has a point, and our support, in his questioning of the propriety of the State's paying of salaries to those members of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) who represent political parties.

He has tabled a private member's motion in the House of Representatives to end the practice. We hope it prevails, although that seems unlikely.

Many of the critics of the payment to ECJ members start with quantum - a belief that with a basic salary of J$8 million (US$92,000) a year, they are overpaid. Many perceive the job as part-time.

That is not our position, especially with regard to the 'independent' members on whose intellectual acumen and integrity in advancing ideas and concepts for enhancing the system rest the reputation of, and confidence in, Jamaica's electoral process.

This is a substantial burden.

Some of that responsibility is no doubt borne by the political party nominees who, if they are MPs and/or members of the political executive, receive from the ECJ the difference between their salaries for substantive jobs and their entitlement for being members of the commission. But as Mr Warmington pointed out, there is another principle at play.

"The paramount interest of these nominated members is to act as protectors of the interests of their political parties, and not the people of Jamaica," he said.

Striking a balance

In this partisan jockeying for advantage among those representing the parties, it is mostly up to 'independent' members to ensure a balanced process.

There is common sense to Mr Warmington's view that compensation for these members should come from the parties, especially in a circumstance where the planned move is towards state financial support for the parties'election campaigns. The removal of salaries will also lessen any temptation of political leaders to use ECJ appointments as sinecures for a couple of members.

We are, of course, not opposed to the ECJ covering specific reimbursable expenses to political party representatives.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.