Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Members of the parliamentary Opposition yesterday ripped into aspects of the report of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) on campaign financing, forcing Leader of Government Business Phillip Paulwell to promise that a joint select committee would be established to examine the proposed campaign-financing legislation.
South West St Catherine Member of Parliament (MP) Everald Warmington refused to pull any punches as he declared that he would not support a report that would place additional burdens on the taxpayers.
"I will not vote for anything that will facilitate the state financing of political parties or individuals," Warmington told the House.
"We cannot impose any more burden on the poor people of this country … . If you can't afford to finance your own campaign, don't go there!" he added.
Warmington, as he did when a similar report was tabled last year, said he was not prepared to back the proposals.
He took the ECJ to task over a proposal contained in the report for an elaborate structure that included registration, campaign, and other facilities to be erected within that organisation to monitor campaign financing.
He argued that such a move was unnecessarily costly. "I cannot, with any clear conscience, support anything that will put more burden on the poor … . I have no interest in asking poor farmers, handcart drivers, vendors, and shopkeepers to finance my expenses."
Warmington, who abstained from voting for the adoption of the report, was supported in large measure by Western Portland MP Daryl Vaz, who sought a clear definition of the terms "contribution" and "donation".
"Without an appropriate qualification, this would appear to preclude a candidate or party from securing a loan to help finance its campaign," said Vaz.
Paulwell appealed for patience, in keeping with the consensual treatment that was accorded to ECJ reports in the past, and promised that a joint select committee of Parliament would address the concerns.
On Monday, a group calling itself the Coalition of Civil Society Groups called for the House to accept the recommendations on campaign-finance reform and drafting instructions to be issued for legislation.
Yesterday, Carol Narcisse, a member of the coalition, said: "We were not willing to accept any more excuses from Parliament.
"Our expectation is that the drafting process will be expeditiously handled in short order, and by the first quarter of next year, the House and the public should be seeing a bill," she said.