Office of the Political Ombudsman Launches Website

The Office of the Political Ombudsman officially launched its website on Thursday (April 11), which offers various features to encourage greater public engagement with the office.

The website, created by the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) adds to the entity’s already existing online presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Visitors to www.opo.gov.jm will be able to get news, notices and alerts, information about political code of conduct signings, elections and pieces of legislation.

“Users will also be able to upload videos and participate in meaningful discussions on important topics,” Political Ombudsman, Donna Parchment Brown told JIS News.

She said the website will serve to “provide visitors with an easier way to interact with the office and provide information, which is easily accessible.” Persons will be able to register a complaint anonymously.

Mrs. Parchment Brown noted that the website addresses issues such as “defamation, which is becoming more prevalent in the digital space… vilification of opponents, fake news and a general deterioration in public discourse.”

“Our democracy will benefit from your interaction with this site,” she noted.

Assistant Executive Director at the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica, Karlene Salmon, who addressed the website launch, commended Mrs. Parchment Brown on undertaking the initiative.

She noted that the website will boost communication and engagement, which will help to further good governance.

“Communication and information are the blood and oxygen of a vibrant democracy,” she said.

The Office of the Political Ombudsman, which was established under an Act of Parliament in 2002, has statutory responsibility to oversee and investigate adherence to Jamaica’s Code of Political Conduct.

The office conducts investigations into allegations of political breaches, and hosts regular discourse on matters such as political campaigning, de-garrisonisation, women’s participation in politics, good governance, among others.

Ahead of the East Portland by-election, the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has issued a reminder that candidates for parliamentary elections are now required to declare the source of their funding.

The requirement is a first in Jamaica’s history and forms part of the country’s campaign financing laws set out in the Election Campaign Financing Regulations 2017 and the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2016.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness was last night expected to announce the date for the by-election, which will see popular People’s National Party Senator Damion Crawford going up against the Jamaica Labour Party’s Ann-Marie Vaz, wife of West Portland Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz.

The law stipulates that contributions to a political party during the period of an election campaign must not exceed $31.5 million, including donations to individual candidates, while contributions to each candidate must not exceed $1.5 million.

It permits persons, companies, and other entities, as well as Jamaican diaspora groups, to make contributions to political parties or candidates during an election.

NO ANONYMOUS DONATIONS
Conversely, it outlaws contributions from agents of the state, public bodies, as well as individuals and entities whose identities are not disclosed or whose activities are illegal.

According to the law, the campaign period begins after the date for an election is officially announced and ends 24 hours before the start of voting.

It defines a contribution as “any gift of money, gift of kind, or any benefit which can be computed in terms of money, given to a political party or candidate, for the purpose of carrying out the activities of a political party or the election of a candidate”.

Persons found guilty of making a false statement in any report, declaration, or other document required to be filed with the ECJ faces a fine of up to $3 million or 12 months in prison if they are unable to pay.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com

Cool It! - Ombudsman Urges Calm As East Portland Race Heats Up

Jamaica’s chief political referee, Donna Parchment Brown, is urging those jostling for control of the vacant East Portland seat to exercise restraint as temperatures run high in what is expected to be a hotly contested race.

The partisan rallying cry is set to intensify in the constituency, with Prime Minister Andrew Holness likely to announce a by-election date on Friday, sending voters to the polls to elect a political representative following the murder of Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Lynvale Bloomfield.

The ombudsman has cautioned against campaigns predicated on personal attacks.

“We (the Office of the Political Ombudsman) are calling on everyone in saying, ‘Let’s not destroy the lives of the people of East Portland by conducting a campaign that is not only disrespectful, but potentially harmful to the people there’,” she told The Gleaner.

Parchment Brown further indicated that the heads of the two major political parties should play a key role in defusing tensions between partisan loyalists and keeping the candidates in check.

“I am definitely relying on the most honourable prime minister and the leader of the parliamentary Opposition and leaders of any other parties or independent candidates that may contest the by-election.

“I want to say to them that the people of Jamaica deserve to be respected while also imploring them to ensure that the candidates and campaign managers show that they can run a decent campaign and increase public participation by encouraging persons with good behaviour,” Parchment Brown contended.

NO COMPLAINTS
The political ombudsman revealed that she had not received any complaints about the official start of campaigning or any instances of political misconduct pending the announcement of a date and completion of the official nomination process.

“When he (prime minister) announces it, we will be ready. Our office is ready to give the support required, and we look forward to working with those involved whenever it is called,” she added.

This week, the People’s National Party (PNP) officially announced Senator Damion Crawford as its candidate for the constituency while the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has put forward Ann-Marie Vaz.

In announcing Crawford, Julian Robinson, general secretary of the PNP, said that the party’s campaign machinery would be fully engaged to support the former MP-turned-senator in retaining the constituency, which has been loyal to the PNP for the last 30 years.

The JLP’s Vaz, on the other hand, this week asserted that the constituency is in need of good leadership, declaring: “That’s why I’m offering myself to effect that change.”

“For decades, the basic infrastructure has collapsed, and tourism has been crippled,” she added, indicating that her main goal is to restore Port Antonio to its former glory when tourism was at its peak.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com

KINGSTON, Jamaica (September 17, 2018):The Office of the Political Ombudsman (OPO) is marking the 13th anniversary of the signing of the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct with a conference titled, “Jamaica’s Democracy, Parties, Participation and Principles.”

The invitation-only event will take place on Friday, September 21, 2018 from 9 a.m. until 12 noon at the University of the West Indies, Mona Faculty of Law (Room 1B). Registration and liquid refreshments will begin at 8:30 a.m.

The conference intends to interrogate democracy and politics in Jamaica and to conceive of next steps in reducing political tribalism, promoting transparency, accountability, the Rule of Law and good governance.

Former Prime Minister and signatory to the code, Mr. Bruce Golding, will be a special guest at the event, and bring greetings.
The keynote address will be delivered by Mr. Howard Mitchell, President of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica.

Other presentations are expected from Dr. Henley Morgan of the Agency for Inner-City Renewal, PNP YO president Ms. Krystal Tomlinson, G2K president Mr. Stephen Edwards and Political Ombudsman Hon. Donna Parchment Brown.

Professor Hopeton Dunn will moderate the event, including discussions following the presentations.

The Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct was signed on September 20, 2005 by then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and then Opposition Leader Bruce Golding.

The document outlines eight core standards for the practice of politics in Jamaica. They include: Non-Violence and Non-Intimidation, Safety of Private and Public Property, Avoidance of Confrontation, Acceptable Public Utterances, Freedom of Access/Movement, Avoidance of Defacing of Buildings or Installations, Ending Political Tribalism, and finally, adherence to a Code of Ethics.

These standards are intended to promote democracy, good governance, and a fair and just electoral process.

The code applies to all candidates as well as officials of political parties. It is binding for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and for Mayors and Councillors.