Devon Dick| Decree and declare that campaign funding be known
Sunday's Gleaner reports the treasurer of the People's National Party bemoaning that "information received by the treasury from the potential donors was that contributions had already been made to senior party members for the benefit of the party. However, only a few members reported or accounted in full, or even in part, for the receipt of these donations to the treasury or the party executive..." (August 28, 2016).
It is not only the political party that needs to know about these donations but the whole country. The country needs to know the source of funding and the sums given to political candidates and political party. This is not, and should not be, tied to campaign finance reform and more public funding of political parties.
Declaration of source of funds and sums is to prevent undue influence of donors on political parties. There was a British political party that received large sums of money from donors, and then when the list of honours was published there was an uncanny correlation to donors to the governing party getting national honours. There are also anecdotes of major contributors to political party getting lucrative contracts. A few years ago, in Britain, the party leader received a large donation which the treasurer of the party claimed he knew nothing about. This is a serious problem worldwide.
The law should mandate that the donor declares how much he or she gave and the receiver the political party or candidate how much was received. False declaration by giver and receiver would be a criminal offence. In addition, this should cover not only cash but goods and services. This is the easiest and quickest way to avoid corruption and undue influence.
Our past elections include donations from OLINT and Cash Plus schemes. Over a decade ago, we were warned about drug barons having influence on our parliamentary process. There is talk that lotto scammers are politically ambitious. And why would persons who are engaged in lucrative illegal and immoral activities not want to buy influence and access to the powerful? Furthermore, foreign donors could have an enormous effect on our electoral process by virtue of favourable foreign currency exchange rate. With so many stringent rules and regulations to minimise money laundering, political campaigns will be prime targets.
The Jamaica Council of Churches and other civil-society groups have agitated for the declaration of source and sums of funding to no avail. The members of the private sector could have done it long time ago but obviously, they are benefiting from this arrangement and comfortable with the status quo. Therefore, the Church should decree and declare that donors and recipients should declare source of funding and sums.
Transparency is best
Political parties, donors and citizens need to understand that transparency and accountability are best for all concerned. It will deepen our democracy and allow for a level playing. It will ensure that funds are used for legitimate purposes. It can facilitate persons of integrity being candidates and not just those who are well connected.
There are some Christians who like to pray pronouncing 'I decree and declare' about things we do not have such power to enact, such as healing a person or granting material possessions in abundance. However, we have the power to decree and declare, through prayer and protest, that campaign funds be made known to the public. The Church community must understand that God gives us strength to protest glaring and gross injustice. And after the protest we praise God for the victory. There is a relationship between protest of iniquities and praise of God.
• Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.