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.

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown has written to Prime Minister Andrew Holness about reports and observations of what she describes as “egregious conduct” by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the Portland Eastern constituency race.

In a letter dated today, Parchment Brown said she made a number of observations during a visit to the constituency on Friday.

She said this includes: a campaign billboard for the JLPs potential candidate Ann Marie Vaz, located within the borders of Western Portland; and the Nonsuch playing field project authorised under the tenure of deceased Member of parliament Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, reportedly being taken over and partly financed by Vaz.

The political ombudsman said she has also observed and or received reports of road works in several communities in the constituency, which have not been approved by the relevant government agencies.

She has recommended that the billboard be removed immediately and that the road works be stopped.

The letter makes reference to a number of other complaints and observations against the ruling party.

Alphea Saunders

The Hon. Donna Parchment Brown, CD. JP, Jamaica’s Political Ombudsman.

“My duty as of today is to help political candidates to fulfill their individual and organizational aspirations through adherence of law and rules of engagement to which they will give their pledge.

I stand ready to be an advocate, mediator and arbitrator for safe conduct of Jamaica’s elections and to promote as far as possible the respectful positive presentation of the candidates to Jamaica.

Chief Justice I take this moment to salute you the president and all members of the judicial branch, thank you for the dedicated service to Jamaica. I know your commitment to justice reform and delivery of a high standard of justice for all.

I salute the office of the parliamentary council, the legal reform department, the office of the director of public prosecutions, the attorney general’s department who along so many entities in the justice sector including the dispute resolution foundation, contribute with and through the ministry of justice to our national well-being; I wish you all the best.

We thank all our development partners and our diaspora for their kind interest and support for Jamaica and we know they will be looking at us as we go through this process of being a democracy.

To the JCF and to the JDF, I depend on you, as does all of Jamaica to serve and protect and reassure without fear or favor so that all of Jamaica may have confidence in all of your actions and in our sense of safety.

To the justices of the peace, thank you for the privilege of being your custos even for a short time.”

 

Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown - file photo RJR
The Office of the Political Ombudsman says it has received a formal complaint of vote buying in Portland Eastern, which it is investigating.
Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown would not say the source of the complaint.
She told RJR News she is interviewing persons in relation to the matter, and while it is unlikely to that a perpetrator will be found before Thursday’s by-election, the investigations will continue after the polls to ensure the same problems can be avoided for future elections.
Mrs Parchment Brown said she is hoping electors will be allowed to go out freely on Thursday to vote in the by-election.
She reiterated that vote buying and vote selling are a breach of the law.
She also called for transport operators in the constituency to make themselves available to “help the electorate get freely and safely to the polling stations so they can exercise their hard-won franchise to vote in an election in Jamaica.”
http://www.rjrnewsonline.com/local/political-ombudsman-investigating-report-of-vote-buying-in-portland-eastern

Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown is calling on the JLP’s Annmarie Vaz to instruct her campaign team and contributors to desist from conducting unauthorized works in public facilities in East Portland.

In a statement just moments ago, Mrs. Parchment Brown, raised concerns about certain projects being carried out in the constituency in the run up to the April 4 by-election. She says projects that began in 2018 under the Constituency Development Fund, CDF or Tourism Product Development Company, TPDCO, are allegedly being reported as being carried out by the JLP’s prospective candidate.

Mrs. Parchment Brown also points to projects being undertaken on public roadways where the contractor is reportedly doing the work as a contribution to the JLP’s candidate-elect without receiving the required permits. She is calling on Mrs. Vaz to instruct those campaigning on her behalf to cease such unauthorized activity.

Mrs. Parchment Brown is also calling on both prospective candidates and their surrogates to avoid public utterances which may breach the political code of conduct.

The Political Ombudsman says allegations have been received from both political parties regarding such utterances. This Friday will be Nomination Day for the April 4 by-election in East Portland.

 

Political Ombudsman Tells Vaz Campaign to End ‘Unauthorized Works’

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Office of the Political Ombudsman will on Monday host a ceremony for the candidates in the Portland Eastern by-election to affirm their commitment to the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct.

Custos of the Parish, Lincoln Thaxter will preside over the signing between the Opposition People’s National Party candidate Damion Crawford and the Jamaica labour Party (JLP) standard bearer Ann Marie Vaz.

The signing will follow on the heels of both candidates being nominated in a lead-up to the April 4 by-election.

The ceremony will be held at the Portland Municipal Corporation in Port Antonio.

 

https://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Political_Ombudsman_hosts_ceremony_for_Portland_Eastern_by-election_candidates

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