Ronald Mason, Contributor
My money is to do with as I please. It is amazing that lobbyists in this country, where allegations of long ago had political parties virtually robbing the bank to finance political activities, can now be so sanctimonious that they dare to tell the citizens what to do with their money.
The argument that political funding will come with strings attached is likely to be correct. What that would do is rightly place scrutiny on the prospective candidates. Do we select persons of demonstrated integrity to be elected to Parliament?
I find it even more galling that limits should be placed on the use of one's personal finances to fuel an electoral win. Yes, this argument will be countered with the statement that soon we will have only well-heeled persons as candidates. So what?
Now we get to where the rubber meets the road: the electorate. Those persons who live and have a non-transferable interest in an election will be under pressure to 'nyam them out' and vote for the best candidate, as judged by the electors' criteria.
The Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) continues to peddle the idea that voters have to be protected from their ability to choose, a notion that I find demeaning. People know who is who. It is not an infallible process, but democracy is not without blemishes. It has been said that democracy 'is a bad form of governance, but the best one known to man'. This is true when one reviews the outcome.
If scoundrels spend lots of money and buy the election, sooner, rather than later, they will seek to get their return on investment.
This process of securing the return on investment is subject to the checks and balances from the Parliament, the party, the bureaucracy, and the people. ExposÚs and evidence sufficient to convict will result in appropriate sanctions.
SOCIETY DIVIDED INTO TRIBES
Jamaica is a small, closed society divided into tribes, namely, green and orange, colour, and social status. However, the small size of the populace lends itself to greater knowledge of each other. Have a look at the most recent list of parliamentary candidates. If you cannot identify some who have, and many others who are, the proverbial men of straw, with some high degree of accuracy, you do not fall into the politically observant sector.
Just listen to the glib chatter as to who went into politics broke and are now millionaires. What is the basis for this, except for observation? Is this what the ECJ wishes to control?
The ECJ leaves the impression that tainted money is designated according to donor; excessive money, designated by whomever is perceived to be wealthy and free-spending; and money in search of influence, as designated by some identification of quid pro quo activity.
Then here comes the ECJ, knight in shining armour on a white steed to the rescue, claiming to save the great masses from themselves. Enough already! The great masses must be credited with collective wisdom. Those who desire to know will inform themselves and make their free choice.
However, do not tell 'us' not to influence the election outcome by the free use of our own resources. We have a right to exercise our options while being aware of the convergence of inappropriate behaviour. We do not need this Big Brother government again setting itself as the keeper of our personal information because it is more worthy.
We do not need to have limits placed on our right to influence the government selection. All influence is not predicated on nefarious expectations. We may have family, partisan and political philosophy preferences. However, to label the contributor green or orange and have them be subjected to the slings and arrows of this tribal society is distasteful.
If state-funded political campaign financing is implemented, you will force us to contribute to both parties equally, much against our choice, just to achieve cosmetic balance. The only disclosure of party contributions that I have seen publicised had major contributors giving equal amounts to both major parties. How sad! Was that truly reflective of their choice? I think not.
What is reasonable regarding campaign financing? Limit contributions to those persons and entities that have a presence within Jamaica. Remove the opportunity for the Jamaican election to be fought through proxy.
Some of us do remember the 1980 general election. Those ideologically aligned financed the spilling of Jamaican blood. Been there, done that. Prescribe the period for electioneering. Get fixed election dates. Reduce the tension. It should not be that we engage in war by surrogates in the quest of a national election.
It is my view that the most minimal intervention by the ECJ is the best intervention. It should be the duty of Parliament to set aside the convention as applied to the ECJ. Question the diminution of political freedom. Question the ability of the ECJ to exact double punishment. Influence the Broadcast Commission to give parties valuable air time. It is mind-numbing to think the provisions of a measly J$500,000 contract two years before an election is to be afforded such significance.
God help us, libertarians, as the ECJ seeks to regulate the freedom out of the electoral process.
Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney, mediator, and talk-show host. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.