Time to pass Bill seeking to amend Constitution — NIA
Executive director of National Integrity Action (NIA) Professor Trevor Munroe

EXECUTIVE director of National Integrity Action (NIA) Professor Trevor Munroe says the Government of Jamaica and Parliament should be called on to bring the Bill that was drafted in 2012 to amend the constitution into law.

That Bill, if passed, would provide for the establishment and regulation of critical bodies such as the Office of the Political Ombudsman (OPO) and other commissions of Parliament.

Speaking on Monday at an international conference hosted by the OPO in observance of 20 years of the existence of that office, Professor Monroe said the Government should be persuaded to — 10 years after that constitutional amendment Bill was drafted by a consultant, and 20 years after the OPO was established under an interim Act — bring it into effect.

He noted that the other commissions which the Bill spoke to include the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, the Office of the Public Defender, and the Office of the Contractor General.

"We need to no longer have an interim office. We need to have the commissions of Parliament become part of our constitution and therefore beyond the purview of any government to simply amend as they see fit," Munroe stated.

Additionally, he said there needs to be a greater concerted push to get Jamaicans engaged in the governance process, and effecting change.

"It's not just a matter of encouragement, not just a matter of indicating the imperatives…a fundamental precondition of this is awareness building, and that requires a sustained, integrated multimedia communication programme, using all the various tactics and forms. It requires publications in educational institutions…we need to do the townhall meetings, we need to have the billboards, we need to otherwise engage in all possible forms," he urged.

He said it was even more important to understand why more people do not engage the system, pointing out that many are apathetic and do not believe they can make a difference, while others are afraid, or too caught up with their own economic and social survival to give attention to the process.

"To increase engagement, it is fundamental to demonstrate, to show practically, every day, concretely, every month, every year that engagement matters, not just integrity matters, not just standards matter, but [that] citizen engagement matters," he stressed, noting that citizen engagement had resulted in a festival song being produced this year.

"It is citizens' engagement which forced NEPA — very rarely and uniquely for them — to take strong action in relation to Windalco's serial pollution of the Rio Cobre, now making it likely that future pollution will not occur," he said, adding that it was also this type of engagement which had helped with bringing more illegal guns to the attention of the police this year.

"It is citizens' engagement that led the courts to put a stop order in 2022, than in any year before, on construction of high-rise buildings to the detriment of home owners and in violation of relevant laws and regulations — citizens engagement brought the courts to take that action," he said, adding that modification to the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exam schedule for 2022 was also due to citizens' engagement.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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