Tobago West independent candidate Ricardo Phillip believes the processes by which election campaigns in TT have been funded over the years, contributes to what he called the “culture of corruption” in the country.
“Our election campaigns are among the most chaotic in the world,” he argued on Tuesday in a Newsday Tobago interview.
“The campaign, itself, is the source of our culture of corruption. It is an indication of how dysfunctional the structure of the society really is.”
The businessman recalled in 2015, a joint select committee was appointed to devise a legislative framework to govern the financing of election campaigns.
Emerging out of that committee, he recalled, was information which pointed out the pitfalls of the systems that were used traditionally to finance campaigns and the need for reform.
Phillip, who is funding his own campaign in the August 10 general election, said once a political party accepts money from an individual or organisation, there are expectations.
“I want to say this to all political parties, the minute you accept money from any private entity or individual it is with the understanding or expectation that when you get into office, you will, of course, return the favour. So, you are already corrupt.”
Phillip described as “ludicrous,” the fact that some political parties can raise millions of dollars over a five-week period of campaigning.
“We have no idea what are some of the arrangements being made with who in terms of resources as a people. But yet still we don’t care what is the cost of the jerseys, we don’t care what is the cost of the banners and advertising on the radio.
“All we care about is that we get something when election time comes, and the fact is that we are contributing to a corrupt society more than we think.”
Phillip said governments and political parties have failed in ensuring that election campaigns, a fundamental democratic process, is “fair, balanced and without any need for corruption.”
The candidate, who claims to have been involved in politics for the past two decades, also said the Prime Minister should not be the one to call a general election date.
He said the date should be announced by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).
“The EBC should be the one, who, after consultation with the Government and Opposition, and possibly another party or parties, then the EBC would decide the day for the election.”
Phillip said a prime minister’s announcement of an election gives the ruling party an unfair advantage in terms of preparing itself for the campaign.
“You have the prime minister or the ruling party, in this case the PNM, who has all of that information before. And if an election is supposed to be fair and balanced, you want to ensure that an election provides an equal opportunity for all parties.”
Phillip said although there is a school of thought that says all parties should be ready, “one must understand that people are preoccupied with other things in life that they just cannot simply be prepared and ready all the time for an election campaign.
Phillip also commented on the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s call to invite international observers for the election.
“Now, the call for international observers suggests that we don’t have confidence in our electoral process and, if that is the case, are we buying into the idea that our election is flawed?”
Phillip said he is satisfied with the EBC’s ability to monitor the process.
“If it is retooled to ensure it is able to carry out an effective election campaign, then why the need for international observers?”
Phillip is competing against the PNM’s Shamfa Cudjoe, the Progressive Democratic Patriots’ Tashia Grace Burris and independent candidate Nickocy Phillips.