'Lawmakers should not be lawbreakers'

'Lawmakers should not be lawbreakers'

Political ombudsman to write Holness, Golding about election paraphernalia still on display

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

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Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown has indicated that she is about to seek intervention from Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding to have political candidates and supporters remove campaign paraphernalia still on display over three months after the September 3, 2020 General Elections, which is a breach of the political code of conduct.

“Lawmakers should not be lawbreakers and we shouldn't be depending on a commission to have politicians, elected officials, or candidates do what the law requires of them or to do what is right. For me, it demonstrates a complete disregard for law and order because they know that under the Town and Country Planning Act there is a restriction, and those who don't know should be told by the seniors in their party,” Parchment Brown said, referring to lingering posters, billboards, party-coloured flags and other items.

The political ombudsman, who was addressing this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, had already issued a public call on September 21 to all candidates, their supporters, and the political parties to complete clean-up of all campaign material.

“I have written to every municipal corporation, I have written to the NSWMA (National Solid Waste Management Authority) — they are the duty bearers; I have spoken to the chairmen of the two political parties that contested [the general election], I have written to the general secretaries, I'm about to write to the prime minister and the leader of the opposition on this matter,” she told Observer reporters and editors.

She said police liaison officers islandwide have reported that while some of the paraphernalia has been removed, a substantial amount remains on display.

“I would be willing to have the law changed to permit me to fine them or pay someone else to do it and they be billed for it, but pre-emptively, with local government elections to be held within the next 18 months, I would like to see the law changed to say if you're putting up material you pay a deposit and that deposit can be applied — let people feel it in their pockets,” she said.

Parchment Brown gave the thumbs up to candidates who have followed the rules in some areas.

“I was very impressed coming from the airport there was a huge billboard that Mrs Holness had up there. Within days of the election it was taken down. We heard Rhoda Crawford from Manchester come out early in the day and say she was taking her board down, and we heard the mayor of Montego Bay and the mayor of Lucea come out in support,” she pointed out.

Meanwhile, Parchment Brown advised that the Office of the Political Ombudsman has disposed of more than 40 of 60 investigations opened over the last general election period, pointing out that the office deals with a wide range of complaints outside of election periods.

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