The recall and impeachment of parliamentarians
The 2023 ceremonial opening of Parliament where members of the House Representatives are invited to a sitting of the Senate (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

1.What does recall mean?

In the area of constitutional law and practice recall refers to a system by which a person elected or appointed to a public office may be removed from that office by the vote of the people.

2.What is the meaning of impeachment?

Impeachment is the charging of a public official with a crime or serious misconduct, and is generally extended to the removal of that public official from office if found guilty of the offence charged.

3. Are there any existing provisions in Jamaica for removing a Member of Parliament (MP) from the House of Representatives, or a member of the Senate because of wrongdoing?

At present, if a MP or senator is under a sentence of death imposed by any court in the Commonwealth, or is serving a sentence of imprisonment of six months or more, that member must immediately cease to act as a member and his or her seat will become vacant at the expiration of a period of 30 days.

4. How does impeachment differ from the present disqualification provision?

Impeachment normally involves a trial by political representatives in the legislature — not by a judge in a court — and is therefore in conflict with the important principle of the separation of the judicial power and the due process provisions of the Charter of Rights, which require that trial of a person on any charge or the imposition of any penalty should be by a properly established court. Impeachment of legislators involves a trial by persons who may be politically motivated and biased and are mostly without legal training.

5. How does recall differ from the present disqualification provision?

The recall of parliamentarians usually involves wider allegations than the criminal standards of the current disqualification provision. It may extend to less serious offences, or offences which do not deserve a sentence of imprisonment, or merely improper though not illegal conduct. It may also extend to allegations of non-performance. It is a method of keeping elected officials accountable.

6. What are the dangers or disadvantages of a recall system?

As a minority report of the Stone Committee pointed out, there are serious dangers and difficulties in the recall system, such as:

(1) The use of recall petitions by party activists and local government representatives seeking to replace the sitting MP;

(2) The use of the recall petitions to pursue factional disputes among competing leaders in the constituency;

(3) Cumbersome and costly procedures governing the verification of signatures on the petitions;

(4) The danger of an increase in by-elections and additional costs in electoral administration occasioned by successful recall petitions, especially during the second term of governing parties when many MPs begin to shirk their duties;

(5) The use of recall petitions by Opposition candidates bent on unseating incumbent MPs.

7. How has impeachment and recall provisions worked in countries with these systems?

The available reports and records indicate that these provisions have not worked fairly or efficiently.


(1) Should Jamaica adopt a system of impeachment for Parliamentarians?

(2) Should Jamaica adopt a system of recall for Parliamentarians?

(3) Should Jamaica expand the grounds for disqualification of Parliamentarians?

The information for the Jamaica Observer's Road to Republic Questions and Answers is provided by Citizens Action for Free and Fair Election (CAFFE).

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