WHO’S GUARDING THE GUARDS?

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The election bell has been rung. The date has been announced for a Local Government poll, and it was clear last Monday from Minister Imbert’s budget presentation, that a General Election is on the horizon, probably less than a year from now. There are however some very serious issues that must be tackled head-on if there is to be greater transparency where campaign financing is concerned. There is no doubt that money is the key factor in any successful election campaign, no matter where it is being fought. Integrity comes in at a distant second. A lot of dough is required to mount a nationwide crusade. Hundreds of staff, media campaigns, political rallies with busloads of supporters, paraphernalia, rum and roti. These things amount to millions over a few months for any group seeking to get their hands on the treasury. Yet the source of funds for these bandwagons remain in the shadows for almost 6 decades. And this a deliberate effort.

Just take a look at what’s happening in the United States today and the chaos that surrounds the Presidency. There is growing support for the impeachment of the President for allegedly seeking assistance from foreign nations to dig up dirt on a political opponent. In one instance, President Trump is reported to have alluded to holding back financial aid to Ukraine unless they started investigating the financial dealings of the son of his opponent, Joe Biden. And late last week, we saw that two Russian associates of the President’s lawyer being arrested for making financial contributions to the Republican campaign.

The laws in America in this regard are crystal clear. A sitting President cannot seek foreign help to perpetuate his or her own political ambitions. And it is also very, very plain that it is unlawful to solicit foreign campaign contributions. What makes the situation especially troubling for the Russians is that they seem to have misrepresented the source of the funds, which is a separate set of charges. Who could argue with laws like that? The reasons for these two contributing to American politics are clear. They stand to gain some sort of financial advantage if the party they supported wins the election. The question that surely arises now, is how many more of these shady deals went down and were swept under the carpet?

Back in good ole T&T though, we have no such regulations, neither do we have the political will to push for it despite many promises by many politicians to do so. That’s because like in every other nation where there are democratic elections, all parties stand to gain from financial contributions, shady or not. All parties require funds to fuel their campaigns. Who’s to say that a business group isn’t illegally financing a political party here to gain economic advantage afterward. Or that a foreign nation isn’t making secret contributions or giving gifts to win support for construction projects afterwards etc. Who is ensuring that this does not continue here? Can we depend on the politicians to be virtuous and bring such legislation to fruition? Or are we waiting for news one day soon that we are owned by a couple of conglomerates and a foreign nation because, as the older folks say, ‘one hand don’t clap’.