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Withdraw from ECJ, political commentator urges PNP members

Political commentator Martin Henry, speaking with Dionne Jackson Miller on RJR's 'Beyond the Headlines' Monday
 
Political commentator Martin Henry is urging People's National Party (PNP) members of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) to withdraw from the commission to register their displeasure with the claims of political interference within the organisation. 
 
On Monday, PNP members and ECJ commissioners Julian Robinson and Wensworth Skeffery called for an urgent investigation into issues which led to the resignation of former director of elections Orrette Fisher.
 
Their call stemmed from the publication of Mr. Fisher's resignation letter and two others written to the Dorothy Pine McLarty, Chairman of the ECJ, indicating instances of political interference at the commission.
 
The ECJ issued a subsequent statement denying knowledge of such interference. 
 
However, Mr. Robinson and Mr. Skeffery, who said they only saw the original letters of Mr. Fisher on May 16, have withdrawn their support for the statement issued by the ECJ on May 13 this year.
 
Both members have alleged instances where they have seen behaviour from a commissioner that they viewed as disrespectful, abusive and hostile to Mr. Fisher.   
 
They have urged the independent commissioners of the ECJ to assert their leadership within the entity to address the conduct of the particular commissioner whose decorum has been brought into question. 
 
But according to Martin Henry, while the PNP members have spoken publicly about issues at the ECJ that need intervention, they need to take "a formal stance" by indicating the points of division within the commission, the matters which may make them unable to function effectively, and demand change. 
 
Still, he said the onus is not just on the political members, but also their  leader who appointed them to the commission. 
 
"The president of the PNP and Leader of the Opposition needs to stand up and speak up as to whether the party and the opposition are going to allow their commissioners to participate in a system which seems to have been compromised by the behaviour of one commissioner," he contended. 
 
Mr. Martin believes if the matter is left "unexamined and undisturbed", it could spell a downward spiral for the commission which will be left open to the vices of political interference from all angles. 
 
The commission has been a reliable democratic feature of Jamaica's political arena, and as such, he argued, the Prime Minister needs to "tell the country whether his appointee is going to be allowed to continue derailing the functions of the ECJ." 
 
"So far, I don't think public confidence has been damaged, but there is a very distinct possibility that this might happen and it is what I'm suggesting we should protect the commission from descending into," said Mr. Henry, who was speaking on RJR's Beyond the Headlines on Monday afternoon. 
 
He noted that civil organisations such as Citizens Action for Free & Fair Elections (CAFFE) and the National Integrity Action (NIA), of which he is a part, stand ready to defend the ECJ's democratic functions and to protect it from political interference. 
 
Again, he charged the PNP members to "absolutely refuse to sit any further on the compromised commission." 
 
"Let us bring it to a crisis," he called, arguing that "Prime Minister Andrew Holness will have to respond to the charges levelled against his appointee if he plans to remain a credible Prime Minister."
 


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