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Senate approves State funding of political parties

Published:Saturday | December 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A section of the Kingston Public Hospital.
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THE SENATE has approved amendments to the Representation of the People Act despite lingering concerns about a provision that will see taxpayers being called on to fund political parties.

The bill has already received the approval of Parliament's Lower House, but the provision for state funding of political parties had been criticised by Opposition Member of Parliament Everald Warmington, who said it was unconscionable to allocate public funds to political parties.

In the Senate yesterday, Warmington received support from several government senators.

One of those persons opposing the provision, Senator KD Knight, said the proposal was inimical to growth and development and was ill-advised.

Knight said he would still find state funding for political parties unacceptable even if the country could afford it.

UNACCEPTABLE

He said it was even more unacceptable given that the Government could not afford to give financial support to struggling citizens such as farmers or to improve the situation of public-sector workers.

"There are some persons who oppose those who suggest that you have a thing like social electricity and social water, which the State should absorb. You say no. Let them live in darkness. Let them live without this thing, which they say is life, but give some money to go pay some people in a political party. It's ill-advised!" he argued.

However, Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte said the decision should not be made not to support the clause "simply because we cannot afford to do what needs to be done".

She said it would be best if the legislation was passed and then implementation of that particular provision be deferred.

Another opposition senator, Tom Tavares Finson, said a high degree of state funding for the activities of political parties was already occurring, and the provision would simply ensure transparency.

As an example, Tavares Finson said both political parties received approximately $5 million to fund their activities in the recent Central Westmoreland by-election.

"It's nothing new. In the last general election, the money paid to the workers of the political parties was greater than $50 million ... to facilitate the work of the political parties," he stated.

The bill was eventually passed with six amendments.