Sun | Mar 24, 2019

Valerie Neita-Robertson | A serious threat to free and fair elections

Published:Saturday | March 16, 2019 | 12:15 AMValerie Neita-Robinson/Guest Columnist

The Electoral Commission has worked assiduously over the years to ensure FREE and FAIR elections in Jamaica. However, recent trends in electioneering practices threaten to undermine those efforts and have introduced a dangerous and corrupt practice of buying votes.

In the constituency of West Portland, there have been continuous allegations and assertions of those practices in the last elections, which have gone unheeded by the commission. These practices have now manifested themselves in Eastern Portland and the upcoming election.

There has been acknowledgement by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) that certain roadworks and other work that started after the presentation of the candidate in Port Antonio four months ago are being funded by private persons who are assisting the candidate. This cannot be right, as by any measure, it amounts to using money to influence votes.

On social media, there are citizens in East Portland complaining about the JLP/activists offering them money to vote for their party in some instances and, in other instances, offering them money to stay home and not vote rather than vote for the People’s National Party.

These complaints are similar to the allegations from West Portland citizens, and social media refers to the elections as a ‘BUY ELECTION’, which mirrors the allegations that money is being used to secure a victory at the polls.

If this is so, are we to be content with returning to the era when the money class in Jamaica are the representatives of the people, thereby ensuring that their interests are protected and that the masses of Jamaicans are fed the crumbs from the table?

But, more important, are we, as a people, totally unconcerned that this type of prostitution of the right to vote and the right to free and fair elections is entrenching a social monstrosity that cannot be in the interest of our country? This sort of prostitution can only build a nation of panhandlers and beggars who are encouraged to depend on handouts from the rich for their sustenance.

This kind of vote buying amounts to corruption of the electoral process and cannot be allowed to take root in our country. If we allow any party to sow the seed of corruption, we will all reap the whirlwind as a country.

Valerie Neita-Robertson, QC is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.