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State party funding to cement dynasties

Published:Sunday | October 5, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Ronald Mason, Contributor

There is the perception that Jamaican politics can be sanitised and made to practise good governance if we give them more money. This perception has very little evidence to support the claim.

We added a strong reporting requirement related to campaigning for public office. It has not worked. Political representation of the people is on a fast track to becoming a family legacy. Consider Pearnel Charles, Karl Samuda, Derrick Smith, Douglas Vaz, Peter Phillips, the Buchanans, the Gallimores, Edmund and St Aubyn Bartlett.

Let us examine the logical reason for the strong and successful attempt to perpetuate political dynasties. First, one must examine the literacy of the people. In this regard, they are still willing to be traded as chattel. The political family has been so dominant in the lives of the constituency that the people are persuaded that a particular family member has their interests at heart. The path to succession planning is always a school, road or health centre that carries the name of the 'elder'.

Securing economic interest

This is laden with the presumption that by electing the younger one, the constituency can expect more of the same. In most cases, the principal objective of the political legacy for the family is securing their economic interest. The family business is profitable. Teachers earn less than the members of parliament. But those who are not making the mark in the real world are guaranteed success on entering the family business - politics.

Politicians in the form of the 'Gangs of Gordon House' paved the way for more economic viability for themselves. In this respect, Member of Parliament Everald Warmington's reported objections are well founded. The gangs love the poor people so much, they allow them to die on hospital floors and to die in the care and custody of the security forces. The gangs have allowed poor people to be schooled at poorly equipped schools for five years and end up with a 'school-leaving certificate'. However, they will find the poor people's taxes to fund their clubs in the form of political parties to the value of not more than 40 per cent of its income for the previous year.

Section 52 AG(b)(3) of the present act states: "The funding out of funds approved by Parliament for the purpose of state funding and made available to the Consolidated Fund, subsection (6)." The same poor people who lack so many government services are being told to fund the political parties at this stage of our economic challenges. The act goes on to state, in subsection (7), that: "Nothing in this act shall preclude any political party from lawfully obtaining monies or benefit from services other than the State."

Let us explore a scenario. The party facing challenges because it is in Opposition some three years before a general election is due goes to the friendly financial institution and borrows a very large sum. This, on the basis that the audited financial statements, done by a friendly auditing firm, will show the income stream to be very large. The Government of Jamaica, from the Consolidated Fund, gives the said party 40 per cent of the stated income level. The party pays off the financial obligation - or individual - and now has a pool of funds to more than adequately contest the election. All legitimately. There is no dollar cap on the amount that can be accessed by these parties. The intent of this act is not to reduce corruption, but to make a more lucrative business for the family legacy to exploit.

The said act in 52AH also uses bold language: "shall be made solely and exclusively for". Sounds strong, but there is no limitation on Section (b)(ii) on the salaries of party administrators. Here comes the era of a political administration for each of the 226 parish-council divisions: (c) party recruitment and civil education. This allows the troops to remain at the helm of the politically favoured. The travesty continues in the legislation.

The political party is supposed to represent members who share commitment. The role of philosophy of the party, the subscribed ideology, and the calibre of its members with capacity for leadership are prominent commonalities. These parties are to assemble persons with this common shared goal to then seek state power. Not so here.

Gangs of Gordon House

The politicians who are grouped as the Gangs of Gordon House are institutionalising their legacy for their personal ability to bequeath. The concept of a limited period of national service has been relegated to the back burner. Come along child, grandchild, sibling, cousin, auntie or uncle and share the largesse. Only the current politicians have the capacity to make appropriate contribution to the sought-after 'good governance'. It is cynically offered - the poor people must pay for the privilege of enriching the family. Let us check the backgrounds of the members of the Gangs of Gordon House. Most of them, on entering the political arena, were the proverbial 'poor as a churchmouse'. Check them out now and check the relationships.

Registration of political parties is a separate issue. Let them be registered and regulated, but this utter rubbish about carefully crafting is poppycock. This is all about the money for the favoured few: the family legacy.

Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback tocolumns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.