KINGSTON, March 14, 2018 - Jamaica's Director of Elections Orrette Fisher, in a surprise move, tendered his resignation today, ahead of a court ruling regarding his tenure at that institution. However, it is the feeling of one member of the Commission that Fisher may have been pressured out of the position.
News of Fisher's resignation came early Wednesday, when, In a letter to staff, the Director of Elections said there was a growing level of political interference affecting the Electoral Office of Jamaica.
"The ECJ, as it exists today, is a far cry from what existed 23 years ago when I joined," he wrote.
He told staff members, that with his court case still pending, he is unsure if it was able to highlight "growing level" of political influence.
The Director of Elections took the Electoral Commission to court seeking judicial review of its decision not to renew his contract which expired at the end of October last year.
He said he filed the court case to determine the legitimacy of his one-year appointment in the post and to highlight the "growing level of political influence" affecting the ECJ.
However, Fisher said looking back, it is heartening to see that most of the changes at the ECJ have been positive.
"The past commissioners like Professor Errol Miller and past directors like Mike Sutherland had a vision of where they wanted the organisation to go and played a role in the development process, despite the difficulties, the external pressures, the ECJ has consistently delivered on its mandate," Fisher wrote.
In an interview with RJR's Beyond the Headlines news discussion programme Wednesday afternoon, Julian Robinson, General Secretary of the People's National Party (PNP) and member of the ECJ, said Mr. Fisher had come under pressure from some of the other members of the Commission.
"I believe that the director has been subjected to what I would call disrespectful and abusive behaviour by other members of the commission and I believe that the director probably got to the point where he felt that he could not tolerate that kind of behaviour anymore," Mr. Robinson told Dionne Jackson-Miller moderator of the programme..
"There's been a systematic attempt and a consistent attempt to question the director's integrity and professionalism...and I believe that would have been a contributing factor to his decision to step away from the post," he said.
Mr. Robinson pointed to one instance of frustration where for nearly a year, the Director referred a critical matter having to do with reverification of voters, for legal advice from the Attorney General's office from about June last year. To date, that advise is yet to be given said Robinson. "I am convinced that there was a deliberate attempt to frustrate the work of the ECJ by not providing that advice," the PNP ECJ member declared.
"You can't tell me that something that is as critical to the functioning of our electoral system, of maintaining democracy, of having a reverification exercise, and it takes the Attorney General's department more that a year and that advice is still outstanding!" Robinson lamented.
"The government has subsequently decided that there are not going to fund the reverification exercise at all," the PNP General Secretary pointed out.
In his in his concluding statement to staff, Fisher wrote: "I wish to use this opportunity to thank all of you who supported me through the years and in particular over the last five months. Your calls, messages and emails have meant a lot. For those of you who did not, we are living in a democratic country and I recognise and accept it as your right."