With elections very much in the air, the Campaign Finance Bill has not yet been passed. The Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has done its work. Now it’s time for our political leaders to step up and do theirs. We will need to hold their feet to the fire on this one. Campaign Finance Reform is key to Jamaica’s Vision 2030 Goal: Transparency and Accountability in Governance. Consensus has already been largely achieved, and legislation requiring the registration of political parties has been passed. Now it is important, and urgent, to pass this legislation.
Below is a joint statement dated 18th September, 2015, issued by the NIA, the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica and the Jamaica Bar Association on this issue. Please read and share…
End further delay in Campaign Finance Regulation: enact the ECJs recommendations!
As an election appears increasingly imminent the public interest demands that the government, with urgency, table the Bill embodying agreed proposals on Campaign Finance Reform and the Parliament pass into law provisions, long overdue and necessary, to advance more effective regulation of money in politics. The provisions proposed by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), already debated and approved by Parliament in November 2011 and in 2013, the latter with recommendations, propose among other things, that:
- Contributions from foreign governments, foreign government entities or unregulated financial organisations be banned;
- The identities of big donors and contributions with large government contracts be disclosed;
- A limit be set on how much money can be spent in any election by candidates and by parties;
- A limit be set on how much any individual can contribute to any candidate or party;
- The establishment of a robust system of monitoring and enforcement, with enforcement of appropriate penalties for violations
The report from the ECJ embodying these recommendations and taking into account comments and opinions of members of the House and the Senate, as expressed in debate, was sent to and approved by the Parliament two years ago. Moreover, an extensive consultative process by the ECJ stretching over five years preceded this final report. This consultative process included:
- Town hall meetings in Montego Bay and Mandeville to discuss the issue of Campaign Finance Reform
- Meetings with representatives of civil society organisations including: Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE), the President Council of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the Bar Association of Jamaica, Press Association of Jamaica, Umbrella Group of Churches (UGC), Women’s Research and Outreach Centre (WROC), the Women’s Political Caucus, National Integrity Action Forum (NIAF- the precursor of National Integrity Action), Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) and the Jamaica Bankers’ Association.
- A conference hosted with the Organisation of American States (OAS), Caribbean Regional Meeting of Political Party and Campaign Financing on Sept 2 and 3, 2010.
- Invited political representatives of the major political parties and Returning Officers who meet monthly in the sixty three constituencies to submit suggestions and recommendations on Campaign Finance
- Extensive internal discussion within each of the major political parties
This ECJ-led process followed endorsement by the Senate of resolutions to regulate campaign finance in May 2002 and again in October 2006. To the credit of the Government and the Parliament, one dimension of political financing was passed into law with the ROP(Amendment) Act 2014, which requires the registration of political parties, the reporting of their financial statements and provides for limited state funding on condition that the parties meet certain obligations, including submission of annual budgets and audited financial statements to annual general meetings. The companion legislation dealing with Campaign Finance is now urgent.
As the Jamaica Gleaner Editorial of September 5, 2015 asked, in the context of election spending, “where does all that money come from…if donors are criminals or big businesses intent on hijacking the politician, he or she will forever be trying to repay them for donations made”. More pointedly, an Editorial in the Gleaner on September 8, 2015 observed “… an absence of transparency about who funds candidates, parties and political campaigns could make Jamaica one of those democracies that people with the deepest pockets can buy. It is urgent, therefore, that we move to introduce Campaign Finance Legislation including limits on what parties and candidates can spend.”
The continued absence of regulation providing for a level of transparency facilities speculation such as “whether the Chinese are financially supporting both parties in the upcoming general elections” (Letter to Editor, Jamaica Gleaner, September 8, 2015). The total lack of openness regarding political party election funding keeps the electorate in the dark, fuels distrust of parties amongst large sections of our people and separates Jamaica from the world of modern democracy. Our country has a strong international reputation for robust electoral administration, developed over many years. To enhance this reputation and at the same time strengthen Jamaica’s system of democratic governance for the benefit of our people now demands that the Government and Parliament delay no further in the statutory regulation of campaign financing.
The NIA, the PSOJ and the Jamaica Bar Association are ready and willing to sit with the Government and political parties to sort out expeditiously any obstacle to immediate passage of Campaign Finance legislation.
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Prof. Trevor Munroe, C.D. Mr. William Mahfood Mr. Donovan Walker
Executive Director President President
National Integrity Action Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica Jamaica Bar Association