JIS News

International observers from the Washington-based Organisation of American States (OAS), who will be monitoring the August 27 general elections, will start arriving in the island early next week, said Assistant Secretary General, Albert R. Ramdin.
“Our core team of about four persons will here on August 20 followed by the second group coming in on the 22nd, and then myself and the majority will be coming here on the 24th and stay on until the 29th August,” he said at a press conference held on (Aug. 15) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
Mr. Ramdin, who spoke to journalists shortly after arriving in the island for election talks with various stakeholders, said he could not at the time, say how many observers will be in the OAS team, but will know by next weekend, whether there will be enough observers to participate in all 60 constituencies.
“We do be able to be present in all the constituencies throughout the country. I think that is an objective which we always try to achieve. If that is not possible, we will certainly be there where attention is required, and in consultation with the Electoral Office of Jamaica, we will be able to establish where we need to be for sure,” he said.
In addition to the international observers, the OAS will be utilizing personnel attached to diplomatic missions and students from the University of the West Indies students.
Mr. Ramdin said that the OAS mission, which has received funding from the Canadian government, intends to collaborate with other participating electoral observer missions from the CARICOM Secretariat and the local Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE).
According to Mr. Ramdin, Jamaica will be the fifth Caribbean country for which the OAS team will be mounting an observer mission for elections, noting that the organization has monitored polls in Haiti, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Guyana.
He said that the organization’s participation in the local elections should not be construed as a lack of faith in the electoral process, noting that the country has a “credible electoral office bureau.” The mission, he said is to make recommendations for areas needing improvements and take best practices, which can be applied to other jurisdictions.
“I think there is always room for improvement. Even where you have good elections, you find yourself sometimes in situations where you think it can be done better the next time, so it’s always good to have somebody from outside looking at that.not to criticize, but to make recommendations on how to improve, how to make it better,” he said.
The OAS, he noted, can also benefit from observing good elections. “We’ll be able to learn from good experiences, from best practices in Jamaica and elsewhere so that we can apply them, maybe modify them in some form or fashion and apply them in other countries.”
In the meantime, Mr. Ramdin said he expected the August 27 elections to be smooth, fair and free of intimidation “What we expect is well run elections.
What we expect is that the people of Jamaica will use their fundamental right to cast their vote to determine the direction in which they want the country to go. We always encourage member states populations to use that right in the context of democracy. We also hope that all of this will take place in a peaceful environment,” he emphasized.
In his remarks, Director of Elections, Danville Walker, described the OAS’ involvement in the general elections, which has come by way of an invitation from the Electoral Advisory Commission as “a welcomed development.”
“We expect that this will be a well run election, a smooth election. We welcome the OAS and welcome their criticism, any suggestions they have, and look forward to working closely with them and supporting them in their work,” he stated.
Mr. Ramdin then signed an agreement with Mr. Walker pertaining to the electoral process. Another agreement establishing the terms of reference as well as privileges and immunities to be accorded to the OAS team is expected to be signed with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Anthony Hylton, during Mr. Ramdin’s two day visit.
The Assistant Secretary General will also hold talks with Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Professor Kenneth Hall; representatives of the major political parties; CAFFE; and the Political Ombudsman, Bishop Herro Blair regarding the OAS’ plans to observe this month’s elections.

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