I recently had a conversation with a gentleman who stoutly defended the practice of ‘vote buying’ as simply voters taking advantage of a business opportunity.

Previously I have spoken to a few other Jamaicans who asserted that they only want their $5,000 payment and that corruption is not a big deal.

Jamaica’s political leaders in the Parliament have passed legislation to assert their opposition to corruption, to vote buying by whatever means and to make such actions subject to fines and penalties, as well as promoting a Code for corrective actions by political party leaders on the Recommendation of the Political Ombudsman under the Political Ombudsman (Interim) Act, which can be viewed at www.opo.gov.jm.

Corruption simply means doing or failing to do any act so as to obtain an illicit benefit for the person or someone else.

Corruption, according to a recent poll is only of concern to 7% of the public. This either means that the moral, ethical, social and economic eyes of our people are not working or we are resigned to become a country where wrong doing by the ‘bigger heads’ is fine and we accept our position as being unworthy of the respect and honest service of those we elect and employ.

Each case must be looked at and dealt with forcefully and without excuse. Reference to how previous or other acts of stealing from the public of our money, our land, our equipment, our rights is a red herring or smoke screen which lines up partisan interest and responses so to prevent full action.

The Representation of the People Act (www.japarliament.gov.jm) which had the support of both major political parties in its passage through Parliament, provides at S70 for a number of election offences.

Section 91 makes bribery treating and undue influence, offences punishable on summary conviction before a Resident Magistrate (now Parish Judge).

The penalty at S93 for each offence is a fine of between twenty thousand and eighty thousand dollars or imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term of three to five years.

Bribery S91 – including (directly or indirectly by yourself or an agent) means inducing– any person to vote or refrain from voting in exchange for a benefit.

Treating S91 – includes every elector who corruptly accepts food, drink, entertainment or provision in exchange for voting or refraining from voting.

Undue Influence S94 – includes impeding or preventing free exercise of the right of any person to vote by threat, force, duress etc.

These provisions give legal force to the provision set out at Apendix 1 in the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct (Code), www.opo.gov.jm which provides inter alia:

85a Duke Street, Kingston, Jamaica, Tel. 876 922-8653/922-0317 Email: politicalombudsman@opo.gov.jm NEW www.opo.gov.jm

1.(f)(i) Candidates or others acting on behalf of candidates:

Must not use funds derived from any source, public or private to improperly influence electoral choices

The use of unauthorized public and road works such as playfields, bushing, marling are opportunities for candidates and their surrogates to put money into the hands of potential voters under the guise of employment and to suggest to the voters that road and other works are a down payment being done to encourage them to select the candidate involved.

These actions and other breaches of the Code and law, should be reported to the Political Ombudsman, the Electoral Commission, Integrity Commission or the Police as appropriate, so that action can be taken through party leaders and the Courts to hold those in breach to account.

I wish every Jamaican a renewed sense of confidence, honour and duty towards Jamaica Land We Love as we celebrate our Emancipation and Independence.

The OPO believes that every citizen has the responsibility to participate in the building of a free and just society, rooted in the central and uninfringeable dignity of a person. The youth, as part of the citizenry, must have a voice in decisions that affect them and as they become stakeholders and change agents in their communities and organizations, they bring perspectives, knowledge and relationships that lead to better decisions and more productive action.

Jamaica has a wealth of social and national organisations dedicated to promoting youth interests. These organizations form a network of knowledge sharing and learning. It is through youth engagement that the skills of active citizenship that contributes positively to the strengthening of society are taught.

The Political Awareness and Respect Initiative (PARI), is a key element of the Office of the Political Ombudsman’s (OPO) public outreach campaign, and comprises a team of young people who have agreed to collaborate with the OPO in undertaking to engage with their peers to work towards strengthening Jamaica’s democratic architecture, as well as to get them to speak on issues around politics, democracy, good governance and the Rule of Law.

Among the fundamental expectations of the collaboration are:

  • An increased public awareness of the Office of the Political Ombudsman and its mandate.
  • Building and strengthening partnerships with other youth organizations, national groups and informal associations.
  • Promoting youth participation in governance

 

PARI was developed jointly by the OPO and key youth leaders following consultations since 2016. PARI members were selected from social and national groups the three counties of the island, Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey. These groups included the National Youth Parliament of Jamaica (NYPJ), National Youth Council of Jamaica (NYCJ) and the Student Unions from numerous Universities. The main criteria in considering eligibility for membership is age. A potential member must be between the ages of 17years to 30 years.

In March 2020 the group met and established Rules of Engagement, Expectations and Key Strategies for advancement.

 

Rules of Engagement

The following were agreed on:

  • Meetings to be held once monthly
  • A Whatsapp group created to facilitate communication outside of meeting times.
  • Correspondences to be sent via email following notices in the Whatsapp group.
  • To actively engage with the various social media platforms and website of the OPO.

 

Key Strategies:

  • A 4 week listening tour (face-to-face and on social media platforms), to ascertain the needs and interests of target audiences;
  • An outreach program focused on soft-selling key messages about democracy through group engagement (Quizzes and Sketches)
  • Training for PARI leaders on effective presentation skills, active listening and reporting.

 

Action Points:

  • To strengthen partnership between the Office of the Political Ombudsman and the Commonwealth Secretariat
  • Engage in strengthening democracy
  • Assist youths in learning to build up institutions

Candidates for March 2 By-Election sign Political Code of Conduct

Candidates for the upcoming by-election in the constituency of Clarendon South Eastern affirmed their commitment to good governance and to fair campaigning by today signing the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct (the Code).

Messrs Pearnel Charles Jr, Jamaica Labour Party and Dereck Lambert, running as an Independent, both signed the code, along with their campaign managers.

The Code governs the actions of both of the major political parties and all other legitimate political parties in Jamaica. It applies to all political players.

Mr Stanhope Porteous, Justice of the Peace officiated at the ceremony, joining Jamaica’s Political Ombudsman the Hon. Donna Parchment Brown.

“As an independent and neutral Commission of Parliament, it is the OPO’s job to hold politicians to account on behalf of Jamaicans,” Mrs. Parchment Brown said. “These standards which they are committing to uphold reflect the very best in political behaviour, which all political actors should strive for, on behalf of the voting public.”

The Office of the Political Ombudsman is responsible for promoting and ensuring that standards in politics are understood and followed. In 2020, the Office is expanding an awareness campaign to youth and developing a social media guide to act as a supplement to the Code of Conduct.

 

The key to success of our democracy, is to treat every new generation of voters with respect, understanding what motivates their activity and inactivity in political life. Jamaicans can demand more from their politicians.

Read more at Magazin Electoral

Kicking off a 2020 awareness building campaign, Jamaica’s Office of the Political Ombudsman (OPO) met today with the Jamaican Constabulary Force Liaison Officers from across the island.

The JCF Liaison Officers play a key role as the OPO’s partner, investigating potential breaches of the Code of Conduct, and keeping the OPO informed of queries and complaints lodged by the public.

Today’s meeting focused on the roles of both the Ombudsman and the JCF and how, together, they can work to promote political harmony and ensure adherence to the laws and the Code of Conduct that politicians created and agreed to abide by.

“It is our job, as a neutral and independent Commission of Parliament, to hold politicians accountable on behalf of all Jamaicans,” Mrs Parchment Brown said.  We can’t do this alone, we need to work closely with all of our partners and other community leaders, and that’s what today is all about – working together for a better Jamaica.”

JCF Liaison Officers reviewed the Code of Conduct, guidelines on how to best communicate with the Ombudsman’s Office, and how they can keep the OPO abreast of activities in their parishes.

Deputy Superintendent Williams, the Senior JCF Liaison to the OPO, attended the meeting and noted that “a key part of our work during campaigns and elections is making sure citizens and residents feel safe, and are aware of their rights, by sharing information with them about what they can expect from the JCF and the Office of the Ombudsman.”

The morning session was designed to sensitize JCF Liaison officers in advance of national and local campaigning and elections.

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.