Progressive Party: PNM, UNC not ready for campaign finance reform

Nikoli Edwards -
Nikoli Edwards -

PROGRESSIVE Party political leader Nikoli Edwards has questioned whether the PNM or the UNC are ready to follow campaign finance reform.

On May 8, the Prime Minister in a statement to the House of Representatives announced that the much-anticipated draft campaign finance reform bill would be sent to a joint select committee (JSC). He said the bill seeks to establish an egalitarian model of campaign finance laws with political equality, lowered campaigning costs, preservation of integrity and credibility of the political system, and ensuring transparency through disclosure, non-discrimination and equitable access to public funding.

Edwards told Newsday, in a telephone interview, the party had taken time to examine the bill which was laid in Parliament.

"As it stands we are looking to ensure that it works to our benefit."

He said the party had some issues and very serious concerns with the legislation and those would be either tabled in a report to the JSC or announced publicly.

"We do think it is a step in the right direction."

Edwards said the party has been calling for campaign finance reform for some time and his only concern was whether it would be passed before the general election is held later this year. He added that political parties have a practice of introducing very critical pieces of legislation ahead of an election knowing it would lapse.

"I cannot see the PNM nor UNC easily adjusting to (campaign finance reform). It is going to impact how they do business and call into question accountability and transparency. I am not sure these political parties are ready to follow that route."

On the party's general election preparations Edwards said their election committee is very active in designing the election screening process.

"We would have been a bit late in the game because we are a newer party (it was launched June 16 last year). We do not have the kind of resources to mobilise the way we wanted to in a shorter time."

On the physical distancing and stay at home in the time of covid19 Edwards said that it has put a spoke in the party's wheel and halted their very practical election plan which included walkabouts, town hall meetings, and meet-and-greet physical activities. He explained that political parties will not be able to have the large political rallies which saves his party when it comes to funding and parties "trying to out do one another". He said it was up to the party to see how best they could navigate social and digital media platforms.

He reported the party was scheduled to put out a call for nominations by the end of this week and he expected a smooth process.

Edwards is planning to contest the San Fernando West seat, currently occupied by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, and he recently released his manifesto for the constituency called a SIMPLE plan focussing on the areas of social development, infrastructural revitalisation, modern technology, promotion of culture and sport, legislative participation and economic stimulation.

Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah told Newsday campaign finance reform is a positive move and a very important development. He added the MSJ would make a formal submission to the JSC.

Asked about the likelihood of the legislation being passed before the election, Abdulah pointed out that Dr Rowley has expressed his commitment to having the legislation passed. He added that it required a simple majority.

"I don’t see why we can’t get some forward movement, even if it is not a perfect piece of legislation."

He reported that with covid19 the party has held several activist meetings and regional body meetings virtually. He added that, following the launch of the roadmap for recovery and change document two weeks ago, the party has some meetings planned with activists in a week's time.

"Shortly after that we will make some further announcements," Abdulah said.


"Progressive Party: PNM, UNC not ready for campaign finance reform"

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