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Bunting gives Office of Political Ombudsman 'modest' rating

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, August 04, 2012    

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GENERAL Secretary of the ruling People's National Party Peter Bunting has given the performance of the political ombudsman a 'modest' rating.

"In my observation and judgment, the interventions of the Office of the Political Ombudsman have been of only modest value during this period," Bunting said in his e-mail to the Human Resources and Social Development Committee of the House of Representatives Tuesday, which referred to instances of his interfacing with the ombudsman's office as a candidate, as well as general secretary of the PNP, since 2007.

"I do not believe that it is efficient to maintain an Office of the Political Ombudsman for the next few years, since elections are not due within that time frame," Bunting, the minister of national security, said.

He suggested that a possible approach would have been to have the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) provide the administrative support for an Office of the Political Ombudsman, but only appoint an ombudsman when elections are in the offing.

The national security minister noted that, as general secretary of the party, he was the "primary interface" with the political ombudsman for by-elections and two elections (parliamentary and local government) since January 2008. However, he pointed out that while the points made in his e-mail were based on his experiences as general secretary of the PNP, they were not the policy position of the party.

Blair later told the committee that he was not surprised by the views expressed by Bunting in the e-mail.

"I can safely say that I knew he expressed that (opinion), especially his last comments in the document... it's not anything new," the ombudsman said.

Government MP Joylan Silvera (West St Mary) felt that, in light of Bunting's expressions, the general secretary of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) should also be asked for his personal opinion.

Opposition member Olivia "Babsy" Grange (Central St Catherine) supported the view, but further suggested Blair meet with both general secretaries, or party leaders, to get their views of his office.

The committee, which agreed to contact JLP general secretary Aundre Franklin for his views, is expected to resume meetings after Parliament's summer recess, which begins this weekend.

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