Vaz snubs code of conduct signing, scolds political ombudsman, Crawford

BY EVERARD OWEN
Observer correspondent

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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PORT ANTONIO, Portland — Ann-Marie Vaz yesterday stayed away from the signing of a political code of conduct ahead of the April 4 parliamentary by-election for Portland Eastern as a dispute between the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the political ombudsman worsened.

Vaz, in a letter to Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown, expressed “deep concern regarding the inaction” of the political ombudsman's office on a number of issues that have soiled the electoral contest between her and the Opposition People's National Party candidate Damion Crawford.

According to Vaz, Parchment Brown has refused to respond to offensive comments and utterances made by Crawford in relation to her, her family and women in general during the last two weeks.

“These discriminatory comments of classism and sexism are indeed repugnant and offensive,” Vaz wrote.

She also accused the political ombudsman of failing to respond to “the slew of slanderous negative social media posts against my good self and my family” and pointed out that the office is mandated and resourced to monitor and make itself aware of all activities and public utterances of candidates and their respective campaigns.

“In principle, I am not against signing the Political Code of Conduct, however your office needs to act in good faith, which has not been reflected by your actions to date,” Vaz told Parchment Brown, adding that she was “not prepared to share the same space” with Crawford “until a formal acceptable apology is offered to all women of Jamaica”.

In response, Crawford, who signed the code of conduct, apologised and said that his comments were not meant to disrespect Vaz.

“My statement was in line with the political process. My statement was on the basis of the positioning of the candidate of herself as Mrs Portland and her husband as Mr Portland,” Crawford told witnesses to the signing in Port Antonio.

He said that his comments were misunderstood and were never meant to disrespect Vaz.

Earlier this month at a rally in Port Antonio to introduce him as the candidate for the election, Crawford had told supporters he was engaged in a class battle.

Pointing out that he had the potential to become prime minister, Crawford also said: “If you look at potential, the furthest this lady will go is Mrs Vaz. When you look at potential, how far can I go, and how far will you come with me?”

The comments were described as “classist” and “sexist” and he came under fire for them.

Yesterday, after signing the code of conduct, he expressed “dissatisfaction” at Vaz's absence from the ceremony and urged his supporters to ensure that the campaign and election were peaceful.

Parchment Brown said that before the start of the signing ceremony she made a phone call to Vaz's campaign manager who advised her that he had noted a number of serious posts on social media and he had not heard her make any statement about them.

“For that reason the candidate is unwilling to sign the code of conduct affirming her commitment to live up to the agreement and declaration of political conduct because there has been no withdrawal and action on this,” Parchment Brown said.

She said that one specific post was brought to her attention yesterday by the leader of the JLP. “I shared that post immediately with the general secretary of the People's National Party who considered that the post was wholly inappropriate and condemned the post to me. I have not had an opportunity yet to put that into the public space. He has indicated that as far as he is aware it is not a post from the People's National Party” she said.


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