Stop corporate political financiers
The matter of limitations on the financing of elections has been in the public domain in this country for some time and it is a question which Trinidad and Tobago will be well advised to address with some urgency if our fledgling democracy is to develop and to flourish.
However, while we may seek out examples of countries which may have put in place mechanisms which are workable and fair, we must exclude the US notwithstanding the fact that we have borrowed substantially from the US constitution for there we are witnessing a situation where spending on the presidential election campaign is said to have reached record and, indeed "obnoxious" levels with election day being still a few days away.
Furthermore, it has always been clear that someone like President Barack Obama would be able to present a possible successful challenge for the presidency, only on account of academic brilliance or, perhaps, military prowess, so paramount has been money on the path to the White House. This we ought not to emulate!
The situation is somewhat different in the UK where, notwithstanding the influence of some persons such as media magnates like the Beaverbrooks, the Kings and, recently, the Murdochs in fashioning public opinion, election activity is more by way of unpaid political party volunteers.
We do not have to venture far and wide to observe the influence of money on our politics. Here we have been witnessing some unsavory developments which, if not dealt with resolutely and effectively, are certain to stultify our path to developing and fostering our democracy.
I refer to the recent revelations of political party financing by business concerns — financing which is directed more to the attainment of expected personal influence and aggrandisement for "high" company officials and functionaries rather than for the promotion of the general public's welfare. How otherwise can the activity in respect of the Hindu Credit Union be described when it has been established that that body — a bankrupt entity — was a contributor to financing the elections campaign of a minister of finance from whom the then government's bailout accommodation was being solicited?
As far as the CLICO/CL Financial debacle is concerned, that company has not hidden the fact that it has been making substantial donations to all major political parties at one time or another. How in this very context, can one avoid placing the Piarco Airport fraud allegations and the public suspicion generated by the Section 34 fiasco?
What is being postulated is that all three of the above situations appear to have the following in common: they have been donors to political party financing in consequence of which they have, at this very time, been sources of embarrassment, undeserving trauma and unnecessary and unavoidable cost to the country.
It is very clear from the foregoing that we are witnessing a situation which requires stern and meaningful action to rid the country of such undemocratic features forthwith — features which should be outlawed with perpetrators being made to suffer meaningful personal penalties in breach thereof.
As an initial step corporate financing of political activities must be outlawed forthwith.