Functions of political ombudsman now subsumed into ECJ Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has formally taken over the roles and functions of the Office of the Political Ombudsman.

This follows the gazetting on Tuesday of the Political Ombudsman (Amendment) Act, 2024 after it was assented by Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen. The controversial Bill was passed in the Senate last Friday and on February 6 in the House of Representatives with zero support from the parliamentary Opposition.

Opposition members have warned that to put the nine commissioners of the ECJ into the role of referee in matters of conflict involving political representatives, risk bringing the ECJ into disrepute.

One government member, the veteran parliamentarian Karl Samuda, himself a former commissioner of the ECJ, warned the Holness-led administration not to tinker with the ECJ when he made his contribution to the debate in the House.

In the end, the government used its majority in both houses of the Parliament to pass the Bill.

On Tuesday, the Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, who piloted the Bill in the House, said “The consolidation of these two critical offices is expected to promote efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the electoral process and to guide the conduct of political parties, their members and supporters”.

“The Office of the Political Ombudsman has played a vital role in overseeing and mediating political disputes, ensuring fair and ethical conduct during elections. By integrating its functions into the Electoral Commission, the government aims to create a more cohesive and integrated approach to electoral governance,” Chuck added.

Chuck said this strategic alignment is anticipated to yield several benefits, including a more streamlined and unified framework for handling electoral matters, improved coordination between various facets of the electoral process, and a more robust mechanism for addressing political disputes.

“The move is also expected to enhance public confidence in the electoral system by fostering greater accountability and responsiveness. By consolidating resources and expertise, the unified entity will be better positioned to address emerging challenges and implement reforms that further strengthen the democratic processes in Jamaica,” the justice minister outlined.

He has urged all candidates for the February 26 local government election to become familiar with the Political Code of Conduct and to avoid any breach or any form of misconduct.

He is also urging the political parties, candidates, and their supporters to conduct a harmonious campaign with civility.