The Government has expressed full support of the recommendations contained in the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) report to Parliament on campaign financing.
Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, who opened the debate on the report in the Lower House on Tuesday (March 27), said the government will be working with the ECJ to ensure that the accompanying legislation is drafted and taken to Parliament in short order.
“I think all of this can be accomplished very early in the new Parliamentary year,” he stated.
The legislation, Mr. Paulwell, said, will be critical, because the manner in which election campaigns are financed has implications, not just for the electoral process, but for governance itself.
He argued that while the financing of campaigns is not just a legitimate, but a necessary part of the electoral process,” unregulated funding of elections can erode the country’s democracy by bringing dirty money into politics.
“Everywhere in the world we see mature and emerging democracies taking steps to tackle the issue of campaign financing with the aim of preserving, protecting and eventually perfecting the democratic process,” Mr. Paulwell said.
The specific recommendations in the report are set out under the following headings: sources of contributions and donations; impermissible donors; limits on contributions to candidates and political parties; disclosure by candidates and political parties; state funding of election campaigns; national campaign fund; campaign advertising and political broadcast; monitoring and enforcement; and additional capacity for the electoral commission.
In his remarks, Minister of Finance and Planning, Hon. Dr. Peter Phillips noted that the report from the ECJ needs to be translated into legislation. He noted, however, that there were issues raised in the report that warrant careful consideration by the Parliamentarians, before it is made into law.
He noted for example, that there is a recommendation for a limit of $1 million per donor to a constituency. “I don’t know where the number came from, but I would urge one thing, let us be careful that … you don’t create legislation that is so out of line with reality that it becomes meaningless and therefore observed more in the breach. It would be terrible if that was to happen to the substance of this report,” Dr. Phillips argued.
The debate on the report has been suspended until a later date.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter