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Politicians must be open and transparent, says Chuck - Justice minister acknowledges credibility at stake in campaign finance scandal

Published:Friday | September 9, 2016 | 9:00 AMChristopher Thomas

Western Bureau:

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck says the campaign financing scandal, which is now rocking the opposition People's National Party (PNP), is pointing to the need for greater transparency on the part of politicians and political parties.

"Political parties must now see themselves not as private clubs, but as national organisations, and be responsible to the public at large. In other words, we have to be open and transparent," said Chuck, who spoke with the media while attending yesterday's training session for community leaders in the delivery of justice services at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.

The campaign financing issue came to light when Norman Horne, the PNP's treasurer, submitted a report to his party, alleging that senior party members collected millions of dollars in donations for the February general election but failed to turn over the funds to the party.

In pointing to the fact that the situation brings to the fore the question of the credibility of political leaders, Chuck said it should concern anyone who would seek to finance a political party.

"If, as is alleged, a person gets money to hand over to the party and the party is deprived of funds, then it hurts the party campaign," said Chuck.

"Obviously, it is of some concern to anyone giving money to a political party as they would like to know that the whole party benefits rather than individuals."

"But we need to be more open and transparent now about funding, and there is no reason why the legislation should not be put in place, and I have no doubt it will be put in place in short order," said Chuck.

On the matter of enacting legislation for campaign financing, Chuck said time would be needed to establish the regulations for that legislation.

"I must admit I have not focused on it as yet, but if it is a matter of urgency, there is no reason why we cannot put in place the regulations over the next few weeks or months. I just need to focus on it a bit, and it is for Cabinet to decide that we will put aside a number of things we are doing and focus on that."

Chuck said he believed that the regulations would be discussed by Cabinet in short order and they would be dealt with "in weeks".

"Because it is a topical issue, the likelihood is that it will be dealt with soon. I do not want to give any time frame, but there is no reason why the regulations cannot be put in place," he said. "The legislation was only passed within the past 12 months, and all that is needed now are the regulations."