Senate approves State funding of political parties
Debbie-Ann Wright, News Editor Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre
THE SENATE has approved amendments to the Representation of the People Act, despite lingering concerns about a provision which will see taxpayers being called on to fund political parties.
The Bill has already received the approval of Parliament's Lower House.
But the provision for state funding of political parties had been criticised by Opposition Member of Parliament, Everald Warmington, who said it was unconscionable to allocate public funds to political parties.
In the Senate yesterday, Warmington received support from several government senators.
One of those opposing the provision, Senator KD Knight, said the proposal was inimical to growth and development and is ill-advised.
Senator Knight said he would still find state funding for political parties unacceptable even if the country could afford it.
He said it's even more unacceptable given that the Government cannot afford to even give financial support to struggling citizens such as farmers or to improve the situation of public-sector workers.
"There are some persons who oppose those who suggest that you have a thing like social electricity and social water which the state should absorb. You say no. Let them live in darkness. Let them live without this thing which they say is life, but give some money to go pay some people in a political party. It's ill-advised!" he argued.
However, Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte said the decision should not be made not to support the clause "simply because we cannot afford to do what needs to be done".
She said it would be best if the legislation is passed and then implementation of that particular provision is deferred.
And another opposition Senator, Tom Tavares Finson said a high degree of state funding for the activities of political parties is already occurring and the provision would simply ensure transparency.
As an example Senator Finson said both political parties received approximately $5 million to fund their activities in the recent Central Westmoreland by-election:
"It's nothing new. In the last General election, the money paid to the workers of the political parties was greater than $50 million ... indoor workers of the political parties, to facilitate the work of the political parties," he stated.
The Bill was eventually passed with six amendments.