T&T political leaders agree on need for campaign finance reform

(Trinidad Express) Political leaders have agreed to President Anthony Carmona’s call to bite the bullet of campaign financing reform.

Those in agreement on Saturday included Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal, People’s National Movement political leader Dr Keith Rowley, interim leader of the Independent Liberal Party Jack Warner and Congress of the People leader Prakash Ramadhar.

Warner, who returned to Parliament last Friday as MP for Chaguanas West, yesterday condemned the prevalence of political investors and financiers for what he described as their dominant role in the political process.

Warner told the Sunday Express that “financiers and investors are an evil to political systems”.

He said he was fully supportive of a call by President Carmona for campaign financing to be more transparent. Warner, who has been described as having “deep pockets” and a “bottomless pit” by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been previously described as a financier of the ruling United National Congress (UNC) and its successor, the People’s Partnership administration.

Yesterday he also dismissed claims that he had spent over TT$10 million in the Chaguanas West by-election and had allegedly paid certain UNC activists as much as TT$300,000 to deliver voting blocs in support of his party.

“I really don’t wish to dignify that with an answer,” he said, adding that it was foolish for anyone to think they can pay people to vote in their favour in an election. “How do you know who votes for who? I never indulge in this kind of foolishness. It would be ludicrous and foolish to do so,” he said.

Warner was at the time commenting on President Carmona’s speech at the opening of the Fourth Session of the Tenth Parliament last Friday at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain during which he called for campaign financing reform.

Carmona told parliamentarians: “Election campaign financing is a veritable juggernaut that results in financiers arrogating political power onto themselves  and thereby undermining the system of governance.”

He said when political parties were in opposition they lobbied for transparency in campaign financing, yet when they were in power “they conveniently neglect” to deal with the problem.

In calling for campaign financing reform, Carmona said this will “build citizen confidence and enhance our system of democratic governance”.

Warner said he was “fully in favour of it.  I think it is long overdue. I know when it comes into play a particular contractor who spent millions in the Chaguanas by-election would be exposed.” He also felt it was time to institute procurement legislation so as to “correct those twin evils”, explaining that one cannot talk about transparency in campaign financing without talking about  procurement legislation.

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