Opposition Leader Mark Golding made his ‘dead voters’ comment on a political platform and took a lot of flak for it.
Now he is facing a censure motion in the country’s Parliament, one, that if taken, will likely succeed because of the governing Jamaica Labour Party’s super majority in the House of Representatives.
Member of Parliament for Portland Western, Daryl Vaz, moved the censure motion on Tuesday, during what was,, at times a stormy sitting of the House of Representatives as Government and Opposition members of Parliament went at each other.
Before doing so, both Vaz and the MP for St Thomas Western, James Robertson, had threatened to move the motion to censure if Golding did not apologise to the nation. The Opposition leader did not speak to the matter on Tuesday.
Speaking in the St Andrew East Rural constituency on Sunday to introduce Patrick Peterkin as the People’s National Party (PNP) candidate for the next general election, Golding, the PNP President, said:
“We have fi mek sure seh every Comrade who voted fi the People’s National Party in 2011 and delivered the victory, if they’re still alive, dem haffi go vote fi Comrade Patrick Peterkin when the election call — and even some who not alive, yu know, if dem can deal wid it, no problem… because as dem seh a we name power, power party,” Golding said, eliciting laughter among the supporters.
The criticism he faced came hard and fast, including from the JLP, which accused him of promoting electoral fraud. Civil society condemned the statement as reckless.
In a statement on Monday, the PNP said Golding was taken out of context while insisting that his comment was meant for humour.
But, Vaz is having none of it.
In moving the motion to censure on Tuesday, he said:
“Whereas the statement of the Leader of the Opposition seeks to undermine the constitution, the democratic process and efforts of the nation to ensure free and fair elections and the preservation of our democracy.
“Whereas the circumstances where the member by his own admission has breached section 96 of the Representation of the People Act, he would consequently be incapable of serving as a member of the House of Representatives for seven years, in the event that the member was found to be guilty.
“Whereas the member’s conduct is not in keeping with the democratic principles expected by the members of the House of Representatives.”
Vaz is insisting that if Golding does not “unequivocally apologise to the nation”, the matter should be referred to the appropriate committee of the House for suitable action.
A censure is a formal vote of deep disapproval of a member’s conduct that could see such a member stripped of committee assignments. Expulsion is rare.
Vaz had declared earlier that Golding had no moral authority to speak on any matter inside the Parliament until and unless he withdrew and or apologise to the nation for the statement.
“The Leader of the Opposition has no moral authority to get up in this Parliament and speak about any issue until he clarifies (and offers) an apology,” Vaz shouted at one point.
As a government member shouted “shame”, Vaz said: “I would have expected that the leader of the Opposition, based on the position that he holds, a constitutional position, the leader of a major political party, a Member of Parliament in his own right, would come in this house today (Tuesday), and not hide behind a statement to say is ‘joke him was making’.”
Vaz said Golding “should have the decency and the respect to get up and clarify himself, and if he needs to apologise; apologise”.