For the first time since Disclosure Today launched its political finance reform initiative, PM Persad-Bissessar has spoken publicly and declaring her position on the issue.
At a luncheon on reform in the construction sector hosted by the JCC on Wednesday July 22nd, their President, Afra Raymond set the tenor early with his comments on corruption, procurement, Section 34 and the need for reform in the sector. PoliWatch, Disclosure Today’s media arm, put the heat on the Prime Minister early in the Q&A session when its media rep asked Persad-Bissessar if she was prepared to reveal “to the public as soon as the elections were done so we have a clear sense of who the financiers were and can then see if there are any links between financiers and people who are receiving contracts?” Persad-Bissessar’s reply was, “Madam, should all parties agree – I am not the only party in this – I have no difficulty with that…I am saying that I am committed to the legislation that will force everyone to do so and that is how we will proceed. I am very committed to campaign finance reform.”
This was a clever dodge, because currently no legislation on the books forces any political party to declare its budgets and accounts pre or post elections. Persad-Bissessar continued to attempt to answer her own question and not Disclosure’s by declaring her government’s support for legislative reform, “In this term a motion brought by Independent Senator Helen Drayton on campaign finance reform and was accepted by the Government to a Joint Select Committee. We accepted the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee just before the close of the Parliament.”
When pressed further on the issue of revealing the identity of her financiers and accounting for electoral spending to the public, Persad-Bissessar agreed to declare who her financiers are, but only if other parties did the same. These were the same conditions echoed by the Third Force Movement, prior to exiting the election race, at their launch on July 3rd.