Influence, interference or plain poor manners?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

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Dear Editor,

Citizens Action For Free And Fair Elections (CAFFE) is deeply disturbed by the unhealthy and contentious impasse which has developed between the former Director of Elections Orrette Fisher and members of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) and the adverse publicity that it has produced.

The ECJ is one of the most successful public institutions to have been established in Jamaica. It has contributed immensely to the preservation of democracy by ensuring a fair electoral system. It is regarded as a model for electoral commissions in the region and internationally.

The essential facts are far from clear. The former director speaks of political influence not political interference. The distinction is too subtle to be helpful. Influence is the exertion of some control over or the power to affect the thinking, decisions or actions of others. Interference is to intervene to achieve some purpose. The same acts may amount to influence or interference. The question is whether the influence or interference is for the wrong purpose or dictated by improper motive.

The political representatives on the ECJ are expected to voice the opinion of the parties they represent on the best way of promoting and maintaining a fair and efficient electoral system. That could be called the exercise of influence or interference. The question is whether the motives are honest and directed to the best interest of Jamaica. This is what CAFFE expects of the political party representatives, irrespective of their political alignment, as well as the independent commissioners.

It also appears that there are some issues relating to uncouth behaviour or discourtesy on the part of a member or members. This would not be improper political partisanship but poor manners. If such behaviour becomes intolerable or disruptive of the proper administration or to the effectiveness of the director or other personnel, any member who is responsible should not be retained on the commission.

CAFFE submits that the public is entitled to a clarification of the complaints and the speedy resolution of any problems which may persist.

Lloyd Barnett

Nancy Anderson

Citizens Action For Free And Fair Elections

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