Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Lambert lays low when it’s time to vote

Published:Sunday | January 24, 2016 | 1:00 AMDaraine Luton

Despite ripping the Campaign Finance Bill to shreds during the debate in the Senate last Friday, Government Senator Lambert Brown was silent when it mattered most, sealing his lips when the opportunity came for him to vote against the bill.

Brown said the bill was "a feel good legislation" which was "a waste of parliamentary time".

The Campaign Finance Bill represents an attempt to streamline the electoral campaign system and to weed out the influence of money on the democratic process.

"It is a feel-good bill for those who have the ideological position, and have held it for a long, long time against the role of money," said Brown during the debate.

He argued that the system is easily breached since the law only applies to a campaign period, which commences the day after the 54 months of office of the Government, or to such period as the Electoral Commission of Jamaica may, subject to affirmative resolution, prescribe.

UNSUCCESSFUL ARGUMENT

Opposition Senator Arthur Williams argued unsuccessfully for the role of Parliament to be removed in determining the campaign period.

The campaign period may also start on the day on which an election is announced and ends 24 hours after the holding of polls.

"No prime minister gets up Monday morning and calls it. Any prime minister who is worth his or her salt would have a sense of what is coming down the pipe ... such a prime minister knows we are far from the six months to the end, and I intend to ask the governor general to make a proclamation.

"A month or two before that, I call in my council of financial gurus and say go forth and raise these funds, outside of the campaign period and, therefore, the reporting period is not applicable," argued Brown.

He further argued that the bill could impinge the constitutional rights of Jamaicans. Brown pointed to the provisions in the bill which prohibits the spending of money about $15 million in the case of a candidate or $630 million in the case of a political party.

With the bill, in part, defining contribution as donation to any group or organisation that is acting in support of a registered political party or a candidate; or any person or entity for the purpose of supporting or opposing the candidature of another person for the purpose of influencing an election, Brown said the possibility of the rights to association and expression could be infringed.

He reasoned that if a candidate has already spent $15 million in a seat campaigning, persons who want to campaign on his behalf would not be able to do so.

"Where is the freedom of expression? Where is the freedom of association? I believe that those rights are being infringed," he added.

The bill was eventually passed with six amendments and will now go back to the House of Representatives for consideration.