T&T parliament committee to tackle law on campaign financing

(Trinidad Express) One year after President Anthony Carmona called on Parliament to “bite the bullet” and address the issue of campaign finance, the Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution calling for the appointment of a Joint Select Committee (JSC) to propose legislation governing the financing of election campaigns.

The motion had been filed by Independent Senator Helen Drayton, who said if the legislation becomes a reality, it, along with the procurement law, would be a “dagger at the heart of corruption”.

Drayton, who filed the motion in August last year, said: “Should Parliament establish such a committee, then this would add to the remarkable step we took last week when we approved procurement legislation in the Senate. It would show that when all is said and done, the political parties are willing to shift the paradigm to focus on governance based on a set of sound principles.

“In two weeks this Senate would have achieved what seemed impossible. In two weeks we would have set ourselves on the pathway of making two of the most critical pieces of legislation since 1962—procurement and campaign financing. And if these laws become operational and are obeyed, a dagger would have been sent to the core of corruption.”

She said while laws don’t make the man, the passage of these laws would suggest the country was prepared to move from its “dysfunctional course” to a more productive and people-centred pathway to good governance.

Drayton said she wanted to thank all members for their presentation which captured essential points of agreement:

1. that there was need for transparency in election campaign financing;

2. that political parties must be registered;

3. that a Joint Select Committee was a good vehicle for distilling the ideas, inviting recommendations and comments, for and coming up with a framework;

4. that the Representation of the People’s Act passed 50 years ago, which limits the maximum that could be spent per candidate at TT$50,000, is outdated and needs to be brought in line with today’s reality; and

5. that political parties should adhere to a legal code of conduct among other significant principles.

She said she has taken to heart the words of Ministers Bhoe Tewarie and Ganga Singh that from the outset the People’s Partnership Government was in favour of a transparent regime to govern the financing of election campaigns and the appointment of a Joint Select Committee to examine the issues relating to such a regime.

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