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Chairperson of the Campaign Financing Committee and Member of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), Dorothy Pine-McLarty, has urged residents of Portland to participate in discussions on issues relating to political party financing.
Speaking at a public forum held on Thursday (July 3) at the Port Antonio High School auditorium, Port Antonio, Portland, to discuss campaign financing for Jamaican political parties, Mrs. Pine-McLarty said the discussions were necessary based on the challenges in the country. She said the Commission is expected to make a report on the rules and regulations on party financing to Parliament later this year.
“Do not let us become spectators to the challenges facing our country. Therefore these discussions are absolutely necessary. Don’t just sit on the fence, we need to hear from you, so that we can preserve not only this wonderful and world renowned electoral system we have, but also our democracy,” she added.
In outlining the recommendations to be made to Parliament, Mrs. Pine-McLarty said the ECJ wants all political parties to be registered with the Commission through their parties or as independent entities. The procedures for registration, she said, will include the grounds on which an application for registration would be refused and the obligations of registered political parties and candidates.
The ECJ is also proposing that political parties separate administrative expenditure from funds for political campaigning. She added that the accounts must show what they have spent for administration and what they have spent for political campaigning.
“We feel that a ceiling, a maximum of $5 million for campaign expenditure should be put in place for each constituency and this should be inclusive of the funds that the candidate is able to collect,” she said.
It is also the Commission’s view, that candidates should disclose all banks and financial institutions that have provided funding through any corporation, partnership, trust, or trust fund, or any organization that the candidate has set up.
Additionally, she said, that organizations receiving payment from political parties for goods or services in excess of $25,000 must file a report on a quarterly basis with the Electoral Commission.
Participants were separated into groups and discussed several issues on party financing after which presentations were made by the facilitators. The groups examined questions such as: whether a limit should be set on the amount of money that a party can receive from any one individual, special interest group or large business for its political campaign; what could be considered as an acceptable source of funding for a party’s political campaign; and could a company be at risk in any way if information about its contribution to a party is made public.
The event was the first of three forums to be organised jointly by the ECJ and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a non-profit organization committed to the ideals of social democracy. Other fora are scheduled to take place in Montego Bay, Kingston and Mandeville.