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Stabroek News

House gives go-ahead for set up of electoral commission
published: Friday | September 29, 2006

Dionne Rose, Parliamentary Reporter

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that will establish the long-awaited electoral commission.

The bill, entitled the Representation of the People Act or the Interim Electoral Reform Act was, however, not unanimously supported.

Opposition Member of Parliament for Central Clarendon, Mike Henry, raised concerns that many Jamaicans were being excluded from voting because of the criteria laid down by the Electoral Office of Jamaica to put persons on the voters' list.

One criterion is that persons must show proof of address by way of a utility bill. But Mr. Henry said the constitutional rights of homeless Jamaicans were being breached when they are prevented from voting.

Said Henry: "The real democracy rests with the fact that if you have nothing, you must retain the right to vote. If you live under a bus shelter, you must have the right to vote, if you live in a canal, you must have the right to vote."

Mr. Henry's concerns were also supported by Independent Member of Parliament, Abe Dabdoub. Nonetheless, Mr. Daboub supported the bill.

A creature of the Constitution

But Leader of Government Business, Dr. Peter Phillips, said the bill was not about the concerns raised by Mr. Henry. He explained that the bill would remove administration of electoral affairs from ministerial influence. This means that the proposed electoral commission will become a creature of the Constitution.

The functions of the proposed electoral commission will include establishing policies governing the registration of electors and to give directions to the Director of Elections.

The selected members of the commission and the director will be disqualified from voting in elections as well as serving in the House of Representatives or on any parish council.

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