Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 15th 2015 Contents A14
March 15, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
With elections looming it is
clear the contentious issue of
campaign financing reform, one
of the pillars the People s Part-
nership fought its 2010 campaign
on, may not be resolved before
the 2015 polls.
This is as Speaker Wade Mark,
chairman of the Joint Select Com-
mittee (JSC) on election campaign
financing, admits that there have
been challenges in taking the com-
mittee s legislative mandate for-
ward to produce a report with rec-
ommendations on the issue.
Tomorrow, seven of the ten-
member JSC, which was estab-
lished last August following a pri-
vate motion laid in the Senate by
Independent Senator Helen Dray-
ton, will host a media briefing to
update the public on the work of
the committee to date. The meet-
ing will be held at the J Hamilton
Maurice Room, Office of the Par-
liament, International Waterfront
Centre, Port-of-Spain, at 11 am.
The JSC, upon establishment,
was given a six-month mandate
to "propose a legislative framework
to govern the financing of election
campaigns and submit its report
with recommendations to both
Houses of Parliament within six
months of its appointment."
However, to date no guidelines
or recommendations have emerged
on the critical issue. Now that the
country is on an election footing
once again the issue of campaign
financing reform has resurfaced.
Pollster/political analyst Derek
Ramsamooj, at the opening of the
Association of Caribbean Media
workers (ACM) and T&T Publish-
ers and Broadcasters Association
(TTPBA) media workshop on cov-
ering elections at Cascadia Hotel,
St Ann s last year, contended that
some $330 million was expected
to be spent during campaigning
for the 2015 general election.
The PP, in its 2010 manifesto
under the Declaration of Principles,
said that they would "promote
legislation for the registration and
funding of political parties subject
to review of an independent body."
President Anthony Carmona, last
year, also raised the need for cam-
paign financing reform, describing
it as a "veritable juggernaut that
results in the financiers arrogating
political power unto themselves
and thereby undermining the sys-
tem of governance."
The issue of campaign financing
is critical to maintaining trans-
parency in government dealings
and removes the possibility of kick-
backs and corruption in exchange
for party financing.
The mounting costs for staging
political meetings, producing and
distributing party paraphernalia
and paying for live entertainment
on the campaign trail leaves room
for the tentacles of corruption to
embed itself into a prospective
In a telephone interview with
the Sunday Guardian, Mark gave
the assurance that the JSC "is
about to meet very soon to com-
mence its work."
However, he said, "We have had
some challenges in terms of meet-
ing very much."
According to the JSC s Web page
on the Parliament Web site the
committee, which comprises Min-
isters Ganga Singh, Dr Bhoendra-
datt Tewarie, Dr Roodal Moonilal,
Prakash Ramadhar, Clifton De
Coteau, PNM MPs Camille Robin-
son-Regis, Colm Imbert, Marlene
McDonald and Independent Sen-
ators Elton Prescott SC and Helen
Drayton, met in-camera on Feb-
ruary 3 at 10.30 am. That meeting
was postponed until further notice.
Prior to that, the committee met
briefly on December 9.
However, Mark said, as chair-
man, he could give the assurance
that the JSC would be meeting in
the next two weeks to examine a
number of reports surrounding
this whole concept of election
"Arising out of that a roadmap
on the way forward would be
fleshed out and we would be in a
position to deal with in the next four
maybe five weeks to submit maybe an
interim report to the Parliament either
seeking more time or at least giving
them an update as to where we are as
it concerns the mandate we have been
given," Mark said.
Pressed on whether the JSC can meet
its mandate to produce a report before
the elections, which are due September
17, Mark said, "I cannot predict that.
As chairman it all depends on the ability
of the committee to meet on a more
regular basis to address this issue of
election campaign financing."
While emphasising that the com-
mittee was committed to carrying out
its responsibilities as mandated by the
Government, Mark remained non-
committal on whether a report would
be ready any time soon.
"A report will be submitted subse-
quent to its (the JSC) meeting. Of
course, the mandate of six months to
submit since the establishment of the
committee...certainly a report will be
submitted on or before that date.
Whether it brings out, for instance,
any concrete measure relevant to that
matter of campaign election financ-
ing...those are matters that will be dis-
cussed among members of the com-
mittee," Mark said.
Moonilal, when contacted on the
issue, said via text message, "The JSC
has the mandate to look at this matter
and I am very excited about our future
initiatives and the long-term impact
of reform in this area as a fundamental
pillar of our governance agenda."
Five years later...
Election campaign reform still pending
Deryck Murray, head of the T&T
Transparency Institute, said
realistically he did not see
campaign financing reform
emerging before the 2015
Murray suggested that when the
motion was tabled in Parliament
there "did not appear to be any
enthusiasm for it at the time."
However, he said, "it is
something that the country
needs. It obviously is not going
to happen in time for this
election, but it does not mean
that political parties and all the
state enterprises, the associated
companies cannot act with the
highest standards of integrity,
regardless, and code of ethical
Murray, who has been one of the
more vocal advocates for reform,
contended that in the absence of
legislation, "We (TTTI) are
establishing mechanisms to
monitor the coming election
campaign [to ensure it] is along
the lines of good ethical
standards and examples which
need to be set by the political
parties for the candidates and
He said that at this stage,
without the actual legislation in
place, the people involved
needed to display the highest
moral and ethical standards and
ensure that we have "free and
fair elections." He said the party
and the group that won also
needed to carry out their
mandate with an eye to reducing
corruption in the country.
Murray stopped short of saying
that there was a lack of political
will to take campaign financing
reform forward, as he said he did
not want to "impose any kind of
judgement at this stage."
T&T Transparency Institute---The country needs it
Wade Mark, chairman of the Joint Select Committee (JSC).
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