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ECJ Opposition members want probe of issues raised by Fisher

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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The two Opposition members of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) yesterday withdrew their support for a statement issued by the commission last week countering a claim of “growing political influence” at the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) by former elections boss Orrette Fisher.

In a joint statement, Julian Robinson and Wensworth Skeffery of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), expressed concerns that the issues raised by Fisher could affect the integrity of the ECJ's operations.

“Having now reviewed the resignation letter and two other letters written by Mr Fisher, we are withdrawing our support for the statement issued by the ECJ on May 13, 2018 and will be calling for an urgent investigation into the issues raised by Mr Fisher. We are deeply concerned that these issues raised by Mr Fisher could affect the integrity of the operations of the ECJ and public confidence in the institution,” Robinson and Skeffery said.

In the wake of Fisher's sudden resignation on March 14, in the middle of a court case in which he was seeking to keep his job on the grounds that his one-year contract, which ended on October 31, 2017, was invalid, Robinson spoke publicly about having witnessed the disrespectful treatment to which Fisher was subjected.

Yesterday's joint statement came a day after Central Manchester Member of Parliament Peter Bunting called for the dismissal of the ECJ commissioner said to have repeatedly disrespected and harassed Fisher, pushing him to resign.

Robinson and Skeffery said that since joining the commission in July 2017 and January 2018, respectively, that have seen and witnessed first-hand, behaviour from a commissioner that they view as “disrespectful, abusive and hostile” to Fisher, as well as to other members of the ECJ, including independent members.

“On these occasions where we have seen this behaviour, we have both challenged the commissioner in question and sought the intervention of the chairman and other independent members to restore decorum,” the commissioners stated.

They said the situation was “unprecedented within the ECJ and decisive steps must be taken” to resolve the issues.

Fisher last week released his resignation letter to the press along with two other letters previously written to the chairman of the ECJ, outlining his increasing concerns about “political influence” at the ECJ. This was after the ECJ itself published a statement on May 13, referencing his reasons for resigning and declaring that there has been no political interference or allegations of such.

Skeffery and Robinson explained that they both participated in the meeting at which the statement was drafted and agreed with its contents, based on a media report which referenced political interference at the EOJ.

“Subsequent to that statement, we have now received copies of the resignation letter of Mr Fisher dated March 12, 2018 and two other letters from Mr Fisher written to the chairman of the ECJ, dated November 3, 2015 and May 2, 2016. We only received Mr Fisher's resignation letter on May 16, 2018, three days after the publication of the ECJ statement, and the other two letters on May 18, 2018, when the letters were released to the media,” they said.

Fisher's resignation letter and the two other letters detailed his growing frustration with what he said was the troubling levels of political influence on the operations of the EOJ. Fisher pinpointed the political representative whose remarks he said had made him feel “personally threatened and intimidated” prior to the February 2016 General Election. The former director said comments were documented in the minutes of a meeting prior to the election, but that the minutes were later “amended” to remove them.

ECJ Chairman Dorothy Pine-McLarty told the Jamaica Observer that a letter from Fisher about that incident had been withdrawn and that those minutes had been redacted. She said that the thrust and parry between representatives from both sides of the political aisle was traditionally part and parcel of discussions at the ECJ.

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