Ombudsman yet to decide on PNP probe

Parchment Brown not sure if she'll investigate allegations of vote-buying in presidential race

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-large
Halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

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Allegations of vote-buying and voter intimidation by “washed-up” dons in the just-concluded People's National Party (PNP) presidential election could escape the probing lenses of Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown.

Yesterday, Parchment Brown told the Jamaica Observer that while she is very concerned about the allegations, she is yet to decide if she will be investigating them.

“I have not made a decision about whether I will act, or whether I will make contact with the PNP on these matters, but I do believe that there is a broader discussion that the political parties, and citizens in general, need to be more aware of the code [Political Code of Conduct] and really hold everybody accountable all the time, to the standards that the parties agreed to,” said Parchment Brown.

She admitted that allegations of vote-buying in political contest have been difficult to prove in the past and this would be no different.

“In the election campaigns between the political parties there have been a number of important issues that I have addressed with the parties and with the public.

“The difficulty with an allegation of vote-buying, or intimidation by dons is that while the allegations are often made, getting them proven, and getting people to give you evidence is more complicated,” added Parchment Brown, who is still probing claims of vote-buying in the April 4 parliamentary by-election in Portland Eastern.

“I have called on the police to help in the investigation into the allegations surrounding the east Portland by-election because there would have been a breach of the criminal law as well, and I thought they would be better to do undercover investigations to assist me. But so far their assistance has not led to any charges.

“But I think one should not feel that since no one has been charged in the past it makes the matter any less important, and I worry that as Jamaicans we begin to take these allegations as, 'cho, a so it go', or, 'par for the course'. We should be expressing our disgust or our disappointment and disagreement when such allegations are made,” argued Parchment Brown.

Yesterday, the anti-corruption entity, National Integrity Action (NIA), wrote to Parchment Brown urging her to probe the vote-buying and intimidation allegations in the national interest.

NIA head Professor Trevor Munroe argued that while some people may say that the election is over and that these matters are behind us, they are not trivial issues, as vote-buying and intimidation are unacceptable to any Jamaican who stands for greater integrity in Jamaica's politics.

“In fact, were the allegations substantiated, they would be in clear breach of Jamaica's Code of Political Conduct, which the officials of the PNP (as well as the Jamaica Labour Party), as political parties, recently registered under the party registration regulations, are now obliged by law to uphold,” said Munroe.

“Moreover, such substantiated charges would also, arguably, be in breach of Section 14 (11) of the Corruption Prevention Act. In either case, following investigation, appropriate punishment should be applied to those found guilty of breaches.

“On the other hand, if these allegations prove to be unfounded, the public should be so informed,” added Munroe.


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