In a recent column in Stabroek News (January 26, 2018), Transparency Institute Guyana addressed the continued postponement of political financing legislation in Guyana and questioned whether the delay was really about the self-preservation of political parties.
The article was comprehensive and timely. It referenced the recommendations made by the Carter Center in its 2015 General and Regional Elections Report which called for the overhaul and modernisation of campaign finance laws and for legislation governing political parties in Guyana.
Sadly, the political will to advance the cause of transparency and accountability in governance is glaringly absent if one were to cast a critical glance in the direction of financing of political parties. In 2009, the late Sheila Holder, the former Alliance for Chair Vice-Chair and former Member of Parliament said “It’s all about money and attached to that is the corrupt or illegitimate means of acquiring funds for the political process” (SN September 9, 2009). Fast forward to 2017, Ms Holder’s colleague in the AFC Minister Dominic Gaskin’s statement on the subject is a volte face of perplexing degrees.
“Political parties also need to be careful about the positions that we may take on this matter because the lifeblood of any political party is, of course, attracting finances. Political parties have to be financially sustainable. It is not cheap to run a political party and therefore, even with the best intentions, if you make the sort pronouncement that could cause potential supporters or donors to think twice before they give you donations, then you will be shooting yourself in the foot….”
The AFC, while in opposition, had moved a motion in Parliament to implement political financing legislation in 2011. Minister Gaskin’s about face is depressingly familiar; what politicians say while in opposition is often very different to what they do when in government.
APNU Minister Joseph Harmon was bewilderingly obtuse on the subject “any changes in the law will require some levels of consultations as we do, not just within the parties but outside of the parties, because it is not the parties alone that are affected. There are other persons who may come up to form a party and will be affected by this law itself”.
The PPP/C’s recently expressed position is willingness to support the government on enacting political financing laws (SN September 10, 2017) despite failing to do so during their many years in government.
The dangers of secrecy in the financing of political parties are manifestly obvious. Secrecy is a recognised hallmark of corruption and it is undesirable in the management of public affairs. A progressive forward thinking government must recognise that opacity in its dealings is the antithesis of good governance.
One wonders whether Minister Gaskin, in making his recent statement, is willing to acknowledge that what he was in effect saying is that government regards the ability of private financiers to fund political parties, secretly, as more important than government being accountable to the people of Guyana.
Surely such an acknowledgement renders any statement or assertion of open government academic.
The people of Guyana must hold politicians accountable otherwise, in the hot heat of political brinkmanship; the interests of a powerful few will trump the interests of the many.
For RISE Guyana
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