Editorial

Country needs to see content of Mr Orrette Fisher's resignation letter

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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The current dispute between the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) and Mr Orrette Fisher, the former director of elections, cannot be good for the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) and, more importantly, the country.

For, if Mr Fisher's allegation of a “growing level of political influence” affecting the EOJ is true, it would represent a return to the dark days of corruption in the island's electoral system which raised many questions about the credibility of election results.

The ECJ, in a statement published in both national newspapers on Sunday, said it is not aware of any incidents or allegations of political interference in the operations of the EOJ.

Mr Fisher, in his response, was firm that he had made no such claim, rather that he spoke to “attempts at growing political influence” which, he said, he “continuously brought to the attention of the commission”.

At this point we have no information to say who is being truthful on this matter. However, what is clear is that the issues that Mr Fisher said he raised in his resignation letter — which has not been made public — need to be discussed and resolved.

Readers will recall that in January this year this newspaper reported that the majority of the staff at the EOJ were concerned that political interference could be the reason that Mr Fisher's two-year contract, which expired on October 31, 2017, was not renewed.

We also reported that last November more than 85 per cent of the staff, including returning officers and assistant returning officers, signed and sent a petition to the ECJ commissioners expressing “worry, dismay, and disappointment” at the action being taken to remove Mr Fisher from office.

“We are particularly dismayed that after serving the electoral process for over 20 years, nine of which he served in the capacity of director of elections, Mr Fisher is being removed for reasons unbeknownst to us,” the employees stated in the petition.

The staff was reportedly also displeased that the commission had, up to that point, not acknowledged receipt of the petition.

Mr Fisher has given the ECJ permission to release his resignation letter in order that the media and the general public can be made aware of the basis for his decision to leave the job.

We suspect that the ECJ will decline to do so, maybe because the letter makes damning allegations about the way the ECJ is being run. If our assumption is correct, the ECJ, we believe, has a duty to defend itself and, as it clearly stated on Sunday, reassure the Jamaican people that it is meeting its mandate to “ensure that Jamaica's electoral machinery is... insulated from political interference”.

If, as we expect, the ECJ refuses to make Mr Fisher's resignation letter public, then he should feel obliged to release the letter himself, as he, too, has a duty to ensure that both the ECJ and EOJ are not hijacked by partisan political interests or, just as bad, any individuals who believe they need to flex political muscle.

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