Monthly Meetings of Political Representatives

Introduction

In 2000 there were three political parties in Jamaica that were recognized by the Electoral Advisory Committee (EAC). Political parties had Members of Parliament; Councilors, Caretakers of constituencies; Caretakers of Electoral Divisions and Liaison Officers in many if not all 60 constituencies. The political representatives reported to the party’s headquarters in Kingston. The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) had a similar island-wide structure. There was the Head Office in Kingston and Electoral Offices in each of the 60 constituencies. However, there was no formal mechanism in constituencies through which Returning Officers and political representatives of the three parties interrelated on a systematic and structured basis.

The EAC was comprised of Nominated members of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition and Selected Members jointly agreed on by both. This in effect meant that the political party recognized by the EAC but was not led by either the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition had no representation or voice in the EAC. Furthermore, when Nominated Members of either major political party brought to the EAC matters related to a particular constituency the normal procedure was to request that the Director of Elections consult with the Electoral Office in that constituencies and then make a report to the EAC. Apart from delaying dealing, sometimes with very simple matters, the lack of any formal means of relationship at the constituency level was a major deficit in the efficient operation of the electoral system.

The EAC therefore decided to formally establish monthly meetings of political representatives in each Constituency. The Member of Parliament and Councilors of Electoral Divisions were there by right of election while each Political Party recognized by the EAC was asked to appoint a Constituency Caretaker, Caretakers of Electoral Division and a Liaison Officer. The Returning Officer, Assistant Reporter Officer and EOJ Constituency Office staff complete the complement for the Monthly meetings. The Returning Officer was the chairman.

The EAC mandate that Monthly meetings should be held on a set week-day within the first 10 days of each month irrespective of whether political representatives attended. Minutes should be taken by the EOJ Office Manager and submitted to the Assistant Director of Election, Field Operations, who would collate vital elements of the Minutes from all 60 Constituencies and submit this to the next meeting of the EAC for consideration.

Monthly Meeting of Political Representatives would involve the following:

  1. The submission of the names and addresses to political representatives of all persons applying to be registered as electors in the constituencies during the previous month.
  2. The submission of the names of scrutineers appointed by political representatives to accompany EOJ staff to verify that applications lived as the addresses given
  3. Engagement in the preparation of the Voters’ List for the Constituency, after the designated cut-off date for registration, particularly in identifying and confirming errors that needed to be corrected.
  4. Engagement in the removal of dead electors from the Voters’ List
  5. Engagement in the process of polling station locations in the constituency
  6. Engagement in the Distribution of Voter ID cards.
  7. Expressions of security and other concerns in the constituency
  8. Being informed of matters being considered by the EAC, and inviting inputs, and of decisions made by the EAC.

At one meeting of the EAC, and subsequently the EOJ, each month the compiled Minutes of the Meetings with Political Representatives were tabled by the Assistant Director of Election of Field Operations, and subsequently by the Deputy Director of Elections. Invariably the following were done each month

  1. The EAC/EOJ responded to Political Representatives, collectively, by a Circular sent to each Returning Officer to be submitted to the next meeting of Political Representatives. Items in the Circular included responses to matters raised in some or even a single meeting constituency.
  2. The Circular also included items of a general nature with respect to matters being considered by the EAC/EOJ or information about decisions taken..
  3. Nominated members were informed of constituencies in which their party had not named their complement of representatives as well as where named representatives were not in attendance. This information assisted Nominated Members to inform their parties where their representatives were not engaged with the electoral processes in some constituencies.

Over time Monthly Meetings of Political Representatives in some constituencies became a Forum for discussion and resolution of matters that were outside of the electoral system but germane to politics constituencies. Accordingly, varying degrees of social capital was generated in almost all constituencies.