A report with a legislative framework for election campaign financing will be submitted to the Parliament by May this year, says House Speaker Wade Mark.
Mark said the Joint Select Committee (JSC) which was appointed in November last year to propose a legislative framework to govern the financing of election campaigns will hold public consultations which will be broadcasted live through the Parliament media.
Mark chaired a news conference yesterday at the Parliament building to give an update on the JSC’s work.
In attendance were Attorney General Garvin Nicholas, Environment Minister Ganga Singh, Planning Minister Bhoendradatt Tewarie, Congress of the People (COP) leader and Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar, Minister of Gender, Child and Youth Development Clifton De Coteau and Independent Senator Elton Prescott SC.
A private motion was filed by Independent Senator Helen Drayton which called for election campaign finance legislation.
The above members are all members of the JSC as well as Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Opposition MPs Colm Imbert and Marlene McDonald and Opposition Senator Camille Robinson-Regis.
Mark said yesterday the centrepiece for the whole exercise was the need for transparency and for financiers to disclose their contributions to political parties.
Nicholas said his office will be guided by the committee and the report on how it moves forward.
“Campaign legislation in itself is not the be-all and end-all to anything. At the end of the day what we are trying to do is to ensure that business people who contribute to political parties don’t have undue influence on Government,” he said.
Ramadhar pointed out that the People’s Partnership Government delivered on its mandate to bring about procurement legislation, reform of the Constitution and also for the first time have a Prime Minister question time in the Parliament.
He said the procurement legislation was a priority for the Government and election campaign finance legislation was the second stage of ensuring greater transparency.
Questioned on whether the JSC will have enough time to complete and submit its report by May as there were many things happening on the political front such as parties’ campaign meetings, a motion of no confidence against Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley to be debated plus normal scheduled sittings of the House and Senate, Mark said the JSC was committed to meeting its mandate.
Mark said currently elections are governed under the Representation of the People Act which has its weakness—one of which—it does not recognise political parties but candidates and this must be examined.
“We have mandate from both Houses to draft a legislative framework for election campaign financing. We shall report and the report will guide the Parliament,” said Mark.
He said the JSC in its previous deliberations sought technical assistance from the experts in election finance reform—the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The committee, he said, also has before it a copy of the Preliminary Report on Political Parties and the Law which was produced by the Law Reform Commission in 2001.
Mark said the UNDP made contact with Charles Chauvel, team leader of the Inclusive Political Processes team in UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programmes Support in New York.
Chauvel worked previously as Parliamentary Development Adviser, leading UNDP’s global parliamentary programme, providing support and advice to UNDP’s parliamentary strengthening projects in 68 countries.
Mark said Chauvel has agreed to review the documents provided to the committee and will be visiting this country during April to meet with the committee and provide further expertise and support.