In preparation for the March 2 by-election in Clarendon South Eastern the Office of the Political Ombudsman at the invitation of the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) will operate the Election Centre from 7am on Monday in May Pen, and will keep it open until after polls close.

The Election Centre is responsible for monitoring both electoral and political activities on Election Day. It is co-chaired by the Director of Elections at the EOJ, Mr Glasspole Brown, and the Political Ombudsman, Hon. Donna Parchment Brown. Membership includes the Jamaica Defense Force, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, The Jamaica Broadcasting Commission, the National Integrity Action, the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, and Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections.

“We are prepared and ready to ensure that this by-election is free and fair,” Parchment Brown said. “We will each be in regular contact with our partners on the ground, at polling stations, and around the community to monitor activity and promote smooth, accessible voting. We want to see a day when those who will be out can exercise their right to vote or go about their business in a free and safe environment.”

Both parties attended and took responsibility, Parchment Brown says.

Hon. Donna Parchment Brown, Jamaica’s Political Ombudsman, issued the following statement following her meeting with individuals involved in the incident in Clarendon South Eastern last
Sunday.

“I held a meeting with both those directly affected and political representatives from both parties, namely People’s National Party (PNP) caretaker for the constituency Patricia Duncan Sutherland, and Mayor of May Pen and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) representative Winston Maragh.

“The important outcome is that we got commitments from both parties to take responsibility for the actions of their supporters going forward.

“Under the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct, ‘nothing should be done to unlawfully prevent or restrict anyone from canvassing or campaigning in any place.’ While the JLP’s right to campaign was impeded, it appears that the actual violence may have been triggered by something which occurred during the altercation, but was not a political matter.

“As an independent and neutral Commission of Parliament, the Office of the Ombudsman’s job is to monitor and investigate potential breaches of the Code of Conduct and hold politicians accountable on behalf of the public.”

A meeting is slated to take place tomorrow, Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 9am, in Clarendon, with the Political Ombudsman and those individuals involved in the violent incident that took place on February 23, 2020, that was captured on video and widely shared via social media.

This meeting is part of an investigation that the Ombudsman has undertaken. The Hon. Donna Parchment Brown, Jamaica’s Political Ombudsman, originally requested a meeting with the General Secretaries of both parties for February 26. That meeting is now being rescheduled to follow the Clarendon meeting. The date for the meetings with both party General Secretaries is to be agreed upon.

The Office of the Political Ombudsman (OPO) is neutral and independent, and is responsible for ensuring political actors comply with the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct (known informally as the Code of Conduct).
The Code has eight tenets, which include freedom of access to campaign, prohibiting violence amongst party members and public utterances that are malicious, slanderous or can trigger violence.

“This violent behaviour has no place in our political system,” Mrs. Parchment Brown said. “All parties are aware of what they have committed to in the agreement, and my office has the duty to hold them accountable on behalf of the public. This is exactly what I intend to do.”

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.

 

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.

Abuja, Nigeria (October 30, 2019) – In a wide-ranging speech to the International Ombud Expo today, the Hon. Donna Parchment Brown, Jamaica’s Political Ombudsman, discussed her office’s plans to host a social media forum with experts from across Jamaica.  The event is slated for early in 2020, and supplements the Office’s plans to work more closely with youth by establishing a Youth Ambassadors program.

“This office supports freedom of expression as both healthy and vital for civil society and the continued strength of our democracy, “Mrs Parchment Brown said.

“Having said that, looking outside Jamaica, we can see that the broad reach of social media has had both benefits and challenges, which we need to address collectively in order to make the most of social media as an accessible, democratizing tool.”

Mrs Parchment Brown embraced a simplicity of language in discussing integrity, noting that ‘people are experts in their lives,’ and that the office exists, ‘so that the public can get the benefit of the resources that belong to them.’

The Ombudsman’s remarks were part of the three-day Expo 2019 which brought together more than 500 national and specialty ombud and grievance handling offices from over 100 countries, to facilitate better governance and improve performance in governments and organisations across the world.

In her remarks the Ombudsman pointed to recent research that noted that public distrust for politicians is high, with 75 per cent of respondents believing politicians in Jamaica are corrupt.  By engaging youth, experts in a range of fields, and developing partnerships, the Ombudsman said that a key priority is maintaining and restoring confidence in the institutions of government.

Montego Bay (October 18, 2019) –  All 100 members of Jamaica’s National Youth Parliament today signed the Agreement & Declaration on Political Conduct, informally known as ‘the Code,’ designed to enhance and promote standards in political life, in a ceremony presided over by Jamaica’s Political Ombudsman, the Hon. Donna Parchment Brown.

The ceremony was part of a four-day training session for youth organised jointly by the Ministry of Education Youth and Information, the Youth Advisory Committee of Jamaica and National Integrity Action.

“This Code is designed to set standards in politics for everyone in political life to endorse and follow,” Ms Parchment Brown noted. “We are very pleased that the youth of Jamaica – our young leaders – are making this commitment today.”

The Office of the Political Ombudsman is responsible for promoting and ensuring that standards in politics are understood and followed.  The OPO is continuing its outreach with youth groups and educational institutes to broaden awareness of its role in promoting standards in politics.  Copies of the code of conduct are available on the OPO website at https://opo.gov.jm/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/RS-2005-09-George-William-Agreement-and-Declaration-on-Political-Conduct.pdf

On September 20, 2019 the Office of the Political Ombudsman held a meeting with 17 youth leaders from across Jamaica. Click here to see what they discussed and what they are doing about it.

 

Over the last several weeks, Jamaicans have expressed various opinions on a tweet posted by the President of the People’s National Party Youth Organization, Ms. Krystal Tomlinson, which referenced actions by Jamaica’s Prime Minister as reminding her of Hitler.

Ms. Tomlinson issued an apology within hours, however, it did not find favour with the Jamaica Labour Party and Generation 2000, who wrote letters of complaint to the Political Ombudsman.

In the case of the Jamaica Labour Party, the letter also questioned whether it was not Ms. Tomlinson and her party who were in line with Hitler’s words “I use emotion…”

In a series of discussions with the Political Ombudsman involving the PNP’s General Secretary, Mr. Julian Robinson, Ms. Krystal Tomlinson and the JLP’s General Secretary, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, the seriousness of the charge and counter charge was highlighted.

Ms. Tomlinson reaffirmed her apology and her speedy action in removing the original tweet.  She expressed the view that there should be equitable treatment regarding the use of “Hitler”; that it be condemned and that all political actors commit to never using such a reference.

Dr. Chang spoke of the extreme distress caused by the remarks/tweet and the risk to the hard fought consensus on the practice of politics and protection from government abuse that both parties have accomplished following the era of political conflict/violence and fear.

The Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct at Standard #4 Public Utterances states:

Party officials (including platform speakers) should not make statements which:

  1. Are inflammatory or likely to incite others to confrontation or violence;
  2. Constitute slander or libel;
  3. Are malicious in reference to opposing candidates, their families and party officials.

The Political Ombudsman condemns Ms. Tomlinson’s original tweet which breached the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct, and the response of Dr. Chang whose reference to the despised Nazi, was unwarranted and unhelpful in an apparent ‘tit for tat’ which also breached the Code.

I call on officials of our political organizations to act with restraint and wisdom to protect persons, such as the Prime Minister in the case of the original reference, political parties, our institutions, all office holders, their supporters and the public from harm.

The references to the most despised leader of the 20th century were unnecessary and unhelpful and have fomented harm in the public space.  Civil discourse on matters of public interest must not include name calling or harmful references.