PM urged to deal with campaign breaches in Portland Eastern

PM urged to deal with campaign breaches in Portland Eastern

Thursday, March 14, 2019

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POLITICAL Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown has written to Prime Minister Andrew Holness urging him to give immediate attention to what she said are breaches and egregious conduct in the heated Portland Eastern by-election campaign between the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Ann-Marie Vaz and the People's National Party's Damion Crawford.

In a letter to Holness yesterday, Parchment Brown pointed to a number of observations she made during a visit to the constituency last Friday.

The political ombudsman said she observed and received reports of roadworks in several communities in the constituency, on behalf of the JLP's candidate, but that reportedly these have not been approved by the relevant government agencies.

Parchment Brown pointed out that Vaz may not have requested or received approval for work to be done on the projects.

However, Parchment Brown said she was advised and believes that some works in the constituency are being done for the benefit of Vaz's campaign at the request of her husband, Portland Western Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz.

Daryl Vaz is also minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Office of the Prime Minister.

The political ombudsman claimed that she has been advised that people who have contracts with the Government have been asked to provide material, equipment, and personnel for the works without having any permits or contracts and have not gone through a tender process.

“It is unclear whether these works are being supervised by any State agency or under any contract to protect the owners from future liability for harm or defects. The supervision by a State agency in these circumstances would also be inappropriate,” Parchment Brown said.

Areas where works are being carried out include Fairy Hill, Barracks, Manchioneal, Windsor Forrest, Pleasant Hill, and Waybridge. The political ombudsman said all works should cease immediately, noting that the Portland Municipal Corporation has paused these activities out of respect for the rules of election fairness.

She also pointed to a campaign billboard for Vaz, located within the border of Portland Western, and that the Nonsuch playing field project authorised under the tenure of deceased MP Dr Lynvale Bloomfield is reportedly being taken over and partly financed by the JLP's prospective candidate.

She has recommended that the billboard be removed immediately and that in relation to the playground project “that work at this location cease immediately and representatives of the JLP desist from entering upon or in any way carrying out any activities on the site”.

Parchment Brown said she has also observed shirts bearing Minister Vaz's image displayed on the streets of Portland at the border of his constituency and the constituency that is being contested.

She insisted that every effort should be made to comply with the relevant election laws and codes of conduct.

“Where a candidate accepts a contribution from a public body as defined by section two of the Public Bodies Management and Accounts Act, [the candidate] is liable on summary conviction in a resident magistrate's court to a fine of up to $3 million or a prison term of 12 months,” Parchment Brown reminded.

The Portland Eastern seat became vacant following the murder of Dr Bloomfield whose body was found with multiple stab wounds in his Passley Gardens house on February 2. Nomination day is set for tomorrow, and voters will go to the polls on April 4.

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