Sunday, February 18, 2018

...Government, Opposition challenged to declare assets


‘LEAD BY EXAMPLE’: Independent Senator Dr Rolph Balgobin makes his contribution at yesterday’s Senate sitting at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. —Photos: ANISTO ALVES

Mark Fraser

Independent Senator Dr Rolph Balgobin yesterday challenged members of Government and Opposition to declare their party finances.

In his contribution to the debate on Independent Senator Helen Drayton’s private motion on election campaign financing at the Senate sitting, Balgobin said he was tired of hearing the parties accuse each other of being thieves and dared them to lead by example.

He pointed out that all members have agreed in their own contributions that transparency in election campaign financing was important yet the matter died when it came up twice before.

Balgobin said while he endorses a Joint Select Committee (JSC) to examine the issue, he believes that voluntarily declaration would send a powerful message to the population.

“Lead by example and not by legislation, don’t wait for a law to compel you to do what you know you should do and what this democracy  needs you to do. Take the lead, light the way, somebody in here have the courage to stand up, you have the courage to call everybody else a thief, stand up and say I am going to voluntarily declare,” he said.

“Which party in here has the courage to do it? I have grown weary of hearing people sling mud at others and call each other thieves, as John Major said, the British Prime Minister, it is time to put up or shut up!” said Balgobin.

Balgobin said the Constitution gives people the right to support political parties of their choice and to also fund that party.

He said on the other hand there is the issue of equality and whether those who do not fund parties are given fair opportunity.

“The rights of those who give and the rights of those who do not give must be exactly the same and the way we ensure that is to have as much transparency as possible around the issue of donations to political parties,” he said.

“When democracy is opaque few win and the majority lose. There is a term for it, it is called elite capture, where the elite in society takes on the benefits of running the society for itself, they take advantage of the resource base and they do what they will and the majority of people are left out in the cold,” said Balgobin.