JIS News

ELECTORAL MATTERSMr. Speaker, let me begin by addressing some important issues before focusing on the main area of security.
The implementation of the long-awaited legislation to transform the Electoral Advisory Committee into a permanent Electoral Commission of Jamaica, was one of the major achievements of this year. We all agree that this system has served us well, and we look forward to its continued effectiveness in the administration of our Electoral System.
Everyone awaits the elections which are constitutionally due by October of this year. A new voters list was printed on May 31, 2007 with 1,336,214 electors. This list has been prepared after a lengthy re-verification process and we are assured by the Electoral Office that it is a clean list. (Perhaps the cleanest ever).
The forthcoming elections will be distinguished by a number of new features some of which were included in the legislation recently passed which provides for the secrecy of the vote, and established penalties for open voting and provides for all cellular phones, cameras and other video recording devices to be banned from polling stations on election day.
Another feature of these elections will be the widespread use, for the first time in a general election, of electronic voter identification and a ballot issuance system. This system seeks to identify electors by their fingerprints prior to issuing them with a ballot to vote. This has been effectively fine-tuned and the workers, including the technicians and the operators of the system, have been recruited and trained. The system will be used either fully or partially in 17 constituencies in Kingston & Saint Andrew, Saint Catherine and Saint James.
The final matter in this regard, Mr. Speaker relates to boundaries re-definition. Of course, members will recall that there is a constitutional amendment before the House to allow for the maximum number of constituencies in which the country may be divided to be raised from 60 to 65. Agreement has been reached on this and at the next Parliamentary Elections, Jamaica will be divided into an odd number of constituencies. The Bill before the House still has to sit on the Table for some time in order to meet the requirements of the Constitution. In any event it will not be finalized and implemented before the next parliamentary elections.
Mr. Speaker, at the very outset, I would like to take a moment to recognize the outstanding performance of the security forces in ensuring the safe and peaceful hosting of ICC-CWC 2007, the third largest sporting event in the world. From the Opening Ceremony in Trelawny to the Semi-Final Game, all elements of the security apparatus – JCF, ISCF, Rural Police, JDF, Immigration, Customs – acquitted themselves with the highest standard of professionalism and with pride. I would like to commend in particular, Assistant Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, and his counterpart in the JDF, Colonel Stewart Saunders for their sterling leadership in the planning and executing the security arrangements.
Mr. Speaker, in addition to the performance at home, members of the JDF, JCF and Immigration served as part of the CARICOM Regional Security Task Force to supplement the capacities of our neighbours and co-hosts. Indeed, Colonel Anthony Anderson of the JDF served as the Commander of the CARICOM Operations, Planning and Coordinating Staff (COPACS), while Captain George Reynolds who chairs the Regional Intelligence Committee, headed the Regional Intelligence Fusion Centre for the duration of the Games.
Mr. Speaker, the success of the operations confirms our confidence in our First Response capabilities to any national or regional security threat.
Mr. Speaker, in this context, I must express our regret over the death of Mr. Robert Woolmer, former coach of the Pakistani Cricket Team. I’m sure that every Member will join me in recording our condolences to the Woolmer family, the Pakistani Cricket Team, and to the Government and people of Pakistan.
Just yesterday, the Commissioner of Police presented the findings of the investigations into the case. Following an open and transparent process, during which invitations were extended to international observers and expert opinions sought from three international forensic experts, the police has now concluded that death was due to natural causes.
Without commenting on this conclusion, and without prejudice to any action the Coroner may take, given the high degree of public interest which the case generated at home and abroad, I have considered it desirable to commission a review of the circumstances surrounding the investigations and to assess the appropriateness of the techniques and the standards of professionalism employed by police investigators, as well as the medical and professional personnel.
I am pleased to announce, that the Honourable Justice Ian Forte, former President of the Court of Appeal, has consented to undertake this Review. The exercise is to be completed within six weeks and I expect a Report not later than July 31, 2007.
Mr. Speaker, as was explained by the Commissioner of Police, the ability of the international experts to review the evidence and form an opinion was facilitated by the use of new modern equipment that was made available to the forensic services quite recently. Obviously, the circumstances of this case have brought into focus the need for the most up-to-date forensic capabilities possible, including most importantly the construction of a new public morgue. I will be addressing this later on.
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