Duncan Sutherland sees the light

Politics

Duncan Sutherland sees the light

PNP caretaker apologises for unleashing 'observers' during Clarendon SE by-election

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 05, 2020

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PEOPLE'S National Party (PNP) caretaker for Clarendon South Eastern Patricia Duncan Sutherland has finally accepted that she was wrong in putting her supporters in shirts marked “OBSERVER” during Monday's by-election in the constituency.

Duncan Sutherland had strongly defended her actions during an interview on Nationwide News Network following the closing of the polls on Monday, despite condemnation from Director of Elections Glasspole Brown, and Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment, after the issue was first reported by the Jamaica Observer.

Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader and Prime Minister Andrew Holness had also condemned the action, and chided the PNP, which had announced that it would not contest the by-election and had reportedly instructed its supporters to stay away.

“You would have seen that all kinds of efforts were made to ensure that the turnout was low and that voters were dissuaded. That kind of political practice the Jamaica Labour Party could never sanction, in fact we condemn it,” Holness told cheering supporters during the party's victory rally in Mineral Heights, after it was confirmed that its candidate, Pearnel Charles Jr, had defeated the independent candidate Dereck Lambert by more than 6,000 votes.

“We, as a political organisation, must never practise that kind of politics. It is a dangerous kind of politics, and it is dangerous because the people who say that dem not contesting, dem show you nice face, dem show you innocent face, dem show you like they are the epitome of morality, and then turn round in a sly way to frustrate and undermine the democratic process of this country,” added Holness.

In a release yesterday Duncan Sutherland – who twice drove past the counting centre at the Vere Technical High School wearing one of the “observer” shirts, and waving her fist at JLP supporters waiting on the result – said she now accepts that her actions were inappropriate.

“I have listened to the conversations over the past few days and I understand that my actions on the day of the by-election in south east Clarendon have caused great concern among well-thinking Jamaicans and stewards of our electoral process,” said Duncan Sutherland.

“My intent was not to interfere in anyway, or to obstruct the law or legitimate rules and regulations imposed by the Electoral Office.

“The intent was to observe and not disrupt proceedings, while ensuring that my supporters and I were clad in clothing which may be considered as neutral. We had also endeavoured to make it clear that we were not participating in the election. Thus, we wore white shirts with the term observer printed on the back,” added Duncan Sutherland.

She said having reflected and listened keenly to feedback about the issue, including perspectives from eminent counsel and electoral officials, she recognised that the action was inappropriate.

“Consequently, I categorically apologise to the EOJ (Electoral Office of Jamaica), the political ombudsman and to all well-thinking Jamaicans who have expressed concern about this issue.

“I also hereby reaffirm my commitment to political conduct consistent with fair play and within the rules and regulations which govern our electoral process,” said Duncan Sutherland, who unsuccessfully contested the seat in the 2016 General Election where she lost to the JLP's Rudyard “Ruddy” Spencer who resigned recently, causing the need for a by-election.

“I recognise that through the hard work of both political parties and other distinguished Jamaicans, our country's electoral process has come a long way and is considered one of the very best in the world.

“I take the opportunity to affirm my commitment, to in the future, eschew any conduct which may detract from the good functioning of our electoral system,” declared Duncan Sutherland.

The JLP had strongly condemned the action of the “observers” during the by-election, with the party's chairman, Robert Montague, and Mayor of Port Maria Richard Creary having to chase away those who approached their outdoor agents in Portland Cottage who sought information on the persons who had voted.

Some potential voters at the Portland Cottage Community Centre had also told the Observer that they were uncomfortable going out to vote as the “observers”, armed with what appeared to be Voter's List, were recording the names of persons who cast their ballots.


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