Tuesday, October 27: D-Day or Delay Day?
Minister Phillip Paulwell, the leader of government business in the House recently declared: "We should have the [campaign finance] bill in Parliament by October" [The Gleaner, September 22, 2015]. The leader of opposition business commented: "It has taken a long time and it seems to suggest that the politicians are not serious about it. I can assure you that we are ... waiting on the Government to bring the legislation. Tomorrow, October 27 is the last House meeting day for October. Let the 'waiting' end tomorrow, the last House sitting day for October. Let not 'he who pays the piper' get away with a new tune, 'We need more time to consider'."
More time? After 13 years!
- In 2002 and again in 2006, the Senate unanimously passed successive resolutions, moved by me, calling for campaign finance reform;
- In March 2003, a Jamaican delegation (Oliver Clarke, Earl Jarrett, Bruce Golding, Trevor Munroe, Peter Phillips) attended and fully discussed the issue at the Carter Center Conference in Atlanta, 'Financing democracy in the Americas'.
- In November 2003, Transparency International national integrity system study of Jamaica recommended "legislation to regulate political parties and political finance".
- In April 2004, then Commissioner of Police Forbes warned: "The Caribbean situation could very well result in a prime minister or minister of national security ... influenced by illicit narcotics traders".
- In April 2005, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson (subsequently supported by MPs Edward Seaga and Bruce Golding) called for an appropriate regime of party regulation and political funding for Jamaica.
- In October 2005, the Organisation of American States (OAS) convened a Caribbean conference on 'political Party and Campaign Financing', attended by representatives of both the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party.
- In December 2005, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, subsequently ratified by Jamaica, called for "transparency in the funding of ... political parties."
- In April 2006, the governor general's Throne Speech promised legislation to deal with party funding and campaign finance reform.
- In July 2006, the then Electoral Advisory Committee convened a conference on party funding and campaign finance regulation.
- In May 2010, Prime Minister Golding recommended legislation to register parties and regulate party funding as one of 14 measures to reform governance in Jamaica.
- In August 2010, the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) (on which both parliamentary parties are represented) submitted a report to Parliament on the registration and financing of political parties; in November, Parliament debated and approved this report.
- In 2014, the bill embodying the ECJ's recommendations for party registration and party funding was passed by Parliament in the form of amendments to the Representation of the People's Act, despite reservations stated by the opposition leader regarding limited state funding.
- In September 2010, the ECJ hosted the OAS Caribbean regional meeting on political party and campaign financing at which representatives of the OAS presented its model legislation for political and campaign financing.
- In 2011-2012, the ECJ held meetings with representatives of the major and minor parties and received recommendations on campaign financing. The ECJ also held meetings with the widest range of civil society organisations, consulted with the contractor general, the political ombudsman, the chairman of the Broadcasting Commission and director of the Financial Services Commission and, as well, held town hall meetings in Montego Bay and Mandeville.
- In April 2012, the ECJ submitted its report to Parliament on campaign financing. This was approved "with concerns".
- In August 2013, the ECJ submitted a second report on campaign financing "with revised recommendations ... after consideration of the comments and opinions of MPs and Senators as expressed in debate."
Yet, some want 'more time!' No other bill has been given so much time since Independence. In fact, we the people got 30 days, not 13 years, to make submissions on the Independence Constitution.
In these 13 years, while we have been consulting and consulting, those who pay the piper have not been talking. They have been acting in the three general elections since "to continue to call the tune". No 'more time' is needed. Table the bill tomorrow!