Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Golding, Phillips reject call to scrap political ombudsman

Published:Sunday | September 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding (centre), chats with Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips (left), and Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown, during a function to mark the 13th anniversary of Jamaica’s Political Code of Conduct at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, last Friday.

Despite a reduction in political violence in Jamaica since it was established, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding still believes there is a need for the Office of the Political Ombudsman.

Golding, one of the first signatories to the creation of a political ombudsman in Jamaica, last Friday rejected a repeatedly voiced call from the Jamaica Labour Party's Everald Warmington, the member of parliament for St Catherine South Eastern, for the office to be scrapped because it had lost its relevance and is a burden to taxpayers.

"The question has been raised about the usefulness of the political ombudsman. Mr Warmington, most notably, has taken the issue to Parliament. I disagree with the direction that he has taken. And it seems to me and it is commendable that the Government seems to disagree as well," said Golding at the ceremony marking the 13th anniversary of the signing of the Political Code of Conduct that was refereed by the political ombudsman.

"The monster of political tribalism may have lost some of its fangs, but it is not about to die. And it is still capable of inflicting harm on the political process," added Golding.

According to Golding, the ombudsman's (Donna Parchment Brown) authority is protected by a kind of "omnibus provision which empowers her to take up any matter, by complaint, or on her own initiative, which she considers likely to prejudice good relations between the supporters of political parties".

Golding underscored that he could be corrected on facts, as he argued that while several countries have adopted a political code of conduct, Jamaica was the only country to appoint an arbiter exclusively dedicated to monitoring and adjudicating political behaviour and activities.

He noted that there is an argument that the statute which established the Office of the Political Ombudsman needs more teeth and power, and pointed out that much of effectiveness of the person holding the office depended on naming and shaming, and exerting the weight of public opinion on political wrongdoing by calling them out.

Golding was supported by Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, who agreed that the office should remain open.

Phillips told the audience that although political violence was a thing of the past, the ghosts could be easily raised. He said Jamaica had invested too much to go back to the dark days of political violence.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com