Dec 28, 2018 News
By Kiana Wilburg
At the next General and Regional Elections, political financing laws, must be a major issue. This is according to Head of Transparency International Guyana Inc. (TIGI), Dr. Troy Thomas.
During an exclusive interview with this publication, the transparency advocate bemoaned the fact that after being in office for three years, the Executive failed to address this matter. The TIGI Head said that given the government’s overall approach to the issue, it seems to be putting party interest over that of the State.
Dr. Thomas said, “I personally don’t feel like voting for any party that doesn’t want Political Financing Legislation. What is it that you got to hide? The arguments that I have seen so far don’t hold water.
(The political parties), they seem to be putting party interest above the interest of the State and this is something fundamental that members of the Executive have got to understand.”
“When you get into that role, you are not representing your party, you are representing the people of Guyana and this is a major way in which we can address grand corruption…The corruption involving politicians where a lot of money and contracts and so are involved. That is why I say political financing (and not just campaign financing).”
He added, “It is not only on the campaign trail, (but) these parties exist year round and even between the five years and we need to know who is financing them. And I think one of the important elements of a Campaign Financing Legislation is that these parties should be registered like firms.
“There might be some different rules but, meaning that they have to submit audited accounts and what’s not like every other entity. Let’s know what is happening there.”
In the absence of such laws, the TIGI Head contended that Guyanese are basically in the dark when it comes to ascertaining if foreign money is influencing local politics or policies. He argued as well, that Guyanese are not even aware if corrupt individuals are making financial contributions to the parties hence the reason they might be awarding contracts in a particular manner.
Dr. Thomas said that many countries have Campaign Financing Laws and they did not break their systems.
He said, “What is happening now is that people are giving money undercover and they are afraid to have that change. (But) when it changes, you can still give money but people know now …the expectation is different, the behaviour is different, (but) the political parties are thinking of it in the perspective that this might cut into their bottom line.”
The TIGI Head said it is important for politicians to remember that they are running a country and not a party. “And you have to do what is best for the country,” posited the activist.
He insists that Guyana has a right to know who is giving money to the political parties and how much.
GUYANA LAID BACK
Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Dr. David Hinds, has also been critical of the government’s approach to Campaign Financing Laws. In fact, he noted that there has been little, if any sense of urgency regarding reform to these laws.
Even when the government indicates that it is willing to address its promise to beef up anti-corruption legislation, the political commentator asserted that they don’t say much about campaign finance reform.
Dr. Hinds said, “Perhaps the last time the president frontally addressed the issue was more than a year ago, when he promised legislation before the next general election. Since then, we have not seen any movement.
“So, it’s fair to conclude that there is no urgency. This is worrying– it makes the government look bad. These campaign promises which are in the manifesto represent the ingredients needed for an articulation of the hitherto elusive Government’s vision.”
The political activist believes that the sloth partly has to do with the contraction of decision-making within the coalition. Dr. Hinds pointed out that everything is decided at Cabinet.
“He noted, however, that the Cabinet is made up of ministers who are obviously primarily concerned with management of their individual ministries. Hence, they are less interested and in many regards, less schooled in overall government policy direction, Hinds stated.
With this in mind, Dr. Hinds said that the matter of campaign finance, which does not fall under the purview of any subject ministry, except maybe the Legal Affairs Ministry, does not get the treatment it deserves.
The columnist stated, “The sloth also has to do with the absence of a cohesive and intentional legislative agenda. Governments tend to pay little attention to the legislative branch, except when they want to use their majority to hurry something through the legislature.”
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