With Andrew Holness, the opposition leader, having declared unequivocal support for the registration and public financing of political parties, maybe the parties will end the procrastination and get the law passed.
Urgency towards such a law would be among the positive outcomes from last week's detention of two governing People's National Party (PNP) members of the St James Parish Council, who are influential in the politics of western Jamaica.
Regulating political parties and how they are financed has been on the Jamaican agenda for the better part of two decades. After a long, circumlocutory route to get to that point, Parliament earlier this year approved a final report from the Electoral Commission of Jamaica on how this can be accomplished.
While most legislators agree, intellectually, that political parties, in our circumstance, can no longer be murky closed shops answerable only to a few top leaders, few are keen to hasten change. A culture of transparency and accountability does not take hold easily.
This newspaper, as we noted before, is in no position to make a determination on the guilt or innocence of Michael Troupe, the deputy chairman of the St James council, and his colleague, Sylvan Reid. They have been accused of involvement in the widespread racket in which mostly elderly, retired Americans are conned out of an estimated US$300 million annually.
Their names and other identity information, having been stolen from databases at Jamaican call centres, the victims are led to believe that they have won lotteries or other games. But in order to receive their prizes, they are told they have to forward money to presumably legitimate persons and enterprises.
This transnational cyber hustle, Jamaican law-enforcement officials say, has led to jostling for turf and other friction among the fraudsters. One consequence is more than a score of homicides here so far this year.
It is easy to see how political parties can be vulnerable to people involved in such scams, or operators of other criminal enterprises, who seek the shelter of the State or an organisation that could control government power. Financing parties, in particular their election campaigns, especially as these have developed in recent years, is not cheap business. The PNP and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) are estimated to have spent, between them, more than J$4 billion on last December's election campaign.
In the circumstance, their fund-raisers solicit donations and take money often under hazy arrangements, with little or no background checks on donors. There is even less accounting.
David Smith, the convicted Ponzi scheme operator, is a case in point. While conceding receiving money from Smith for its 2007 campaign, the JLP can't say how much, if not the US$2 million claimed by a Turks and Caicos Islands court. It took weeks for the PNP to say it received US$1 million, disputing a US$2-million claim.
The formal registration of political parties would require that they regularise their management structures, maintain audited accounts and report contributions beyond benchmark levels.
It is a process that they should quickly embrace lest they become greater havens for criminals, some of whom may already have, or are still, directing the levers of State.
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