DR Herbert Thompson yesterday resigned as chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), with immediate effect, but kept his seat on the body, sparking strong rebuke from senior Opposition politician Audley Shaw.
Thompson informed Governor General Sir Patrick Allen of his decision, saying he had no option but to quit after attracting flak from the Opposition for accepting an award from the ruling People's National Party (PNP).
A news release from King's House said that Thompson reiterated to the governor general "his conviction that the award was meant to honour the work of the ECJ in building Jamaica and was never meant for him personally".
The governor general, King's House added, "thanked Dr Thompson for his service to the ECJ on which he will continue to serve as a member".
But last night, Shaw insisted that Thompson should step down from the commission completely.
"Dr Thompson must do the right thing in resigning from both positions, as his remaining in either would cast a shadow of doubt over the ECJ and its function," Shaw said.
"Dr Thompson exercised poor judgement in attending and receiving an award at a political event and, in effect, cast a shadow over his position which at all times requires a posture of unquestionable impartiality," Shaw argued.
Last week, Thompson — one of three independent members of the ECJ — triggered calls for his resignation after he accepted the Percival Patterson Award for Building National Unity at the PNP's 75th anniversary fund-raising gala and awards ceremony held on September 17.
Both PNP Deputy General Secretary Julian Robinson and the chairman of the awards committee, Burchell Whiteman, have insisted that the award was objective and was paying tribute to the ECJ, and its predecessor, the Electoral Advisory Committee (EAC), for their contribution to nation-building.
However, Whiteman has admitted that the tone of the invitation sent to Thompson might have inferred otherwise and has apologised for that.
Whiteman's reference was to the first paragraph of the letter which read: "Dear Dr Thompson, I have the honour to inform you that you have been nominated for a special award in recognition of your contribution to the work of the People's National
Party in its pursuit of its vision for Jamaica over the past 75 years."
Thompson apologised to Opposition Leader Andrew Holness for accepting the award. However, Holness said that the JLP was not satisfied with the apology, as Thompson had breached the public's confidence.
Holness also said it was his understanding that none of Thompson's fellow independent commissioners were aware of his decision, and neither were the JLP members.
"There can be no acceptable explanation for any member of the commission to accept an award on behalf of the commission without the knowledge and authorisation of the commission," the opposition leader said.