Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
THE ELECTORAL Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has taken a far-reaching step to "prevent the State and its policies from being hijacked and dictated to by narrow interest groups" as it proposes a ban on donations from foreign or Commonwealth governments or their agents or agencies.
"No political party, member of a political party, or candidate, shall accept any donation from a foreign or Commonwealth state whether directly or indirectly, through a third person," the ECJ declared in its latest report on campaign financing.
This proposed policy comes more than six years after the so-called Trafigura affair in which Dutch oil-lifting company Trafigura Beheer donated $31 million to the People's National Party (PNP).
Since that time, the donation has been the subject of fierce public debate. Members of the top brass of the PNP were hauled before the court to say what they know about the donation scandal as the authorities in The Netherlands worked to build a case against the Dutch company back home. In The Netherlands, it is illegal for companies to make contributions to political parties.
In a 24-page submission to Parliament on campaign financing, the ECJ is recommending the imposition of stiff penalties on political parties or their members who accept donations from these sources.
"Any donation accepted by a member of a political party shall be deemed to be accepted by the political party, unless the member wilfully fails to disclose to the political party, in which case the member shall be liable for prosecution," the report, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, stated.
However, the commission pointed out that a "political party, or member of a political party, or candidate, shall be deemed not to have accepted a donation, if within 30 days of receiving the donation, the party, member, or candidate, returns the donation to the donor."
Local bodies also ineligible
The ECJ has also listed public institutions, statutory bodies, government and quasi-government bodies or any company with government capital shares as ineligible to make political contributions.
The ECJ's report forms part of wide-ranging recommendations to replace sections 55 to 61 of the Representation of the People Act.