– AFC slams timing of Ramotar’s appointment as Presidential Advisor
By Leonard Gildarie
An opposition motion to introduce measures to bring more transparency into the way political parties handle campaign financing was yesterday sent instead to a special parliamentary committee, effectively ending hopes that it could be law before this year’s General Elections.
The motion was also designed to curtail the use of state resources by the incumbent PPP/C during the election campaign.
The motion by Alliance For Change (AFC) Sheila Holder, was voted down by the government-led People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), 24-17, which argued that the issue was too complex to be “rushed” through at this time.
The debate was a heated one at times with Speaker of the House, Ralph Ramkarran, threatening to bring the proceedings to a halt after an exchange between Holder and the PPP/C’s Gail Teixeira.
Earlier, AFC Parliamentarian and Presidential Candidate, Khemraj Ramjattan, lashed out at the appointment of Donald Ramotar, the PPP/C’s Presidential Candidate, as a Political Advisor to President Bharrat Jagdeo.
The announcement was made yesterday by government spokesman, Dr. Roger Luncheon during his weekly press briefing.
There have been questions whether state resources were being used to finance the trips of Ramotar, a non-executive of the government, to a number of Cabinet outreaches and overseas.
Holder, in the motion, argued that the laws regarding the financing of campaigns of political parties, under “Election Expenses”, were considered archaic and the Chief Elections Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), as regulator and political parties, routinely breaches them.
She also noted that Guyana has committed to several international agreements.
The AFC official also said in her motion that money in politics “undeniably influences the quality of democracy and governance.”
She called for the government to present to the National Assembly laws to regulate campaign financing for political parties, which will curtail the abuse of state resources by the incumbent.
This, she emphasised, will help create a level playing field for the political parties.
“Given the credibility deficit facing this government, generally, and its presidential candidate in particular, supporting this motion might be a viable option worthy of their consideration.
The credibility deficit of which I speak relates to the failure of two successive PPP/C governments to keep promises made to President Jimmy Carter during his last visit to Guyana in August 2004. Seven years ago, at the end of his visit to Guyana, President Carter had considered it important enough to list ‘campaign finance’ as the second most important item in his communiqué as a result of his discussions with President Jagdeo.”
She, too, accused the ruling party of according executive privileges to Ramotar in travelling in and out of the country and in “being allowed to hand out tractors and other state-funded gifts to indigenous communities.
We see him participating in cabinet outreach exercises even though he is not a member of the government.
This is evidence of blatant abuse of executive power… thereby justifying the need for the adoption of this motion.”
Holder called for the development of a legal framework for the transparent operation of political parties as a measure to qualify for funding from the public purse. Also, she stressed, “the development of a system that balances private and public financing for political parties’ campaigns and the adoption of a system (such as the one in India) to curtail abuse of state resources by the governing political party in order to create a level playing field for contesting parties.”
PPP/C’s Manzoor Nadir, Anil Nandlall and Gail Texeiera, drew reference to regulations on campaign financing around the world, including the US and Canada, and noted that the complexities involved would have to be studied.
Issues like overseas financing from families, businesses and from other sources, all have to be considered.
The Parliamentarians stressed that government is willing to endorse the motion, but with a few changes. One of those changes includes sending the issue to a Special Select Committee of the Parliament.
Earlier, Ramjattan accused the PPP/C of selectively plucking out key sections of the motion and deleting them and pointed out that the mandate for the special committee was unclear.
He expressed that he was convinced that the PPP/C was unlikely to support the motion and it would die a “natural death” in that committee, within a few months.
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