Fri | Apr 19, 2019

NIA to kick off campaign against vote buying

Published:Saturday | May 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM

National Integrity Action (NIA) is making final preparations to roll out a public awareness campaign urging Jamaicans and politicians not to engage in vote buying or selling, even as there are clear indications that both major political parties have stepped up their activities in preparation for elections.

"As we come into the electoral season, we are going to be very visual on building public awareness against the scourge of vote buying and selling, which, anecdotally, has been very rampant," declared Professor Trevor Munroe, executive director of NIA.

Making a presentation on Wednesday to a joint select committee of Parliament examining the National Integrity Act 2015, Munroe said he could not recall any instance where a person had been prosecuted for either buying or selling votes.

He argued that vote buying or selling is an offence under the Representation of the People Act with a fine of up to $80,000 and imprisonment - with a provision to bar people from public office or voting thereafter.

The head of the local corruption watchdog group told lawmakers that the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer (GBC) named Rwanda as the most trusted country in the world in terms of its political parties.

Munroe reasoned that a country that experienced civil war and genocide subsequently developed an extraordinarily robust system of transparency in public political party financing and enforcement.

On a scale of one to five where one is most trusted and five most distrusted, Rwanda scores 1.2 in relation to its political parties.

The GBC conducted the survey of 12 institutions in 107 countries and interviewed 114,000 persons including 1,000 persons in Rwanda.

campaign finance reform

Munroe contended that the question of campaign finance reform and regulation has been on the cards since 2002.

The Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has submitted its revised recommendations on campaign finance reform to Parliament in 2013. The ECJ has indicated that campaign finance reform would minimise or regulate "influence peddling, as well as obviate the possibility of the State and its policies being hijacked and dictated by narrow interest groups and in seeking to prevent malevolent forces from undermining the rule of law".

The NIA executive director posits that anybody could access information on who gave the most money to the British Conservative Party or Liberal Party in the United Kingdom election earlier this month.

"We are looking at 10 years now and people are asking, how come? What is it that is delaying it? Is it the difficulty of drafting, or is it not a priority given other priorities of our country?" Munroe questioned.