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Government supports ECJ's campaign reform report

Published:Wednesday | March 28, 2012 | 12:00 AM

The Government has indicated its support for the recommendations contained in the report of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) on campaign-finance reform.

"We will be working with the ECJ to make sure that the accompanying legislation, which is an important part of what we are doing, is drafted and put through the Parliament in short order," Phillip Paulwell, the leader of government business in the House of Representatives, said yesterday.

"I think all of this can be accomplished very early in the new parliamentary year," Paulwell added, as he opened the debate on the report.

"This legislation is going to be critical because the manner in which election campaigns are financed has wider implications for not just the electoral process, but for governance itself," Paulwell said.

Among the recommendations of the report are the setting of limits on contributions to candidates and political parties.

It also calls for the imposition of limits on election expenditure of candidates and of political parties.

Dr Peter Phillips, the member for East Central St Andrew, has said it is the convention that the House should approve the report.

Examine recommendations

Phillips, however, noted that some of the recommendations in the report should be carefully examined before they are put into law.

"It is probably easier to police by setting clear limits on expenditure," Phillips said.

"I believe that it is the unlimited nature of the possible expenditures that drive the demand for fund-raising at the other end and which opens the system up to the possibility of distortion from illicit resources coming into the system," Phillips said.

He argued that the report carries with it the possibility of "a major benefit to the political system by setting a barrier against the possible influx of dirty money into the system".

Phillips argued: "But this report, in and of itself, when translated into legislation is going to need careful consideration."

Peter Bunting, the MP for Central Manchester and a member of the electoral commission, said it was important that Parliament act on the report.

"As a parliament, we should set this as a priority," Bunting said.

He added: "Having embarked on it nine years ago, I really believe that if we allow it to continue to languish, and for us to be facing another election campaign without any appropriate regulations to do with the financing of political parties and political campaigns, future generations will indict us for not having the political will and conviction to do what is right and to do it promptly."

The debate on the report has been suspended until a later date.