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‘Don’t use poor people money finance political campaigns’

‘Don’t use poor people money finance political campaigns’

Warmington, Govt MPs clash over party financing

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 02, 2014    

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SOUTH West St Catherine Member of Parliament (MP) Everald Warmington has again clashed with Government MPs at Gordon House, after declaring that he would not support proposals for public financing of political parties.

Warmington insisted that a government which cannot afford to meet the basic needs of poor Jamaicans should not want to use public funds to support political parties.

“If it was not for Food for the Poor, a lot of poor people in Jamaica today would have nowhere to live. We are not able to provide the basic needs for the poor in this country, yet we want to give poor people money to the electoral commission to finance the political campaign of political parties,” Warmington told the House.

“There is no way that I could, with any justification, support this. I cannot justifiably ask the poor people of South West St Catherine to finance my political campaign,” he added.

“Wha’ yu a sey? Poor man mustn’t come inna Parliament? Equal opportunity for all,” Junior Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Luther Buchanan shouted from the government benches.

“If you cannot finance your own campaign, don’t run election: A you get the prestige and privileges,” Warmington insisted.

“You are a rich man,”Junior Minister Julian Robinson suggested.

As the noise grew, preventing him from speaking, Warmington commented, “Sometimes it is embarrassing to see what has become of the House. It is demeaning and insulting.”

Speaker Michael Peart

told members to allow Warmington to speak as they would each have a chance to participate in the debate.

Warmington said that if the Bill is to be passed, he wanted an amendment that would allow any member not interested in participating in public financing to withdraw from it.

“What I will do, since everybody is mouthing and talking, when the time comes for a vote on these clauses, I am going to call for a divide (and) let Jamaica see those who want to take their hard earned money to go

run campaign,” Warmington said.

Leader of the House Phillip Paulwell rose and explained that legislation would follow, seeking to have the proposed campaign financing system implemented. However, he pointed out that the funding the current Bill speaks to is for the running of constituency offices and to pay staff and other housekeeping bills.

Warmington insisted that it was the same thing, as in both instances poor people’s money would be used to finance the political parties.

“But, since yuh have all these loudmouths, I will ask for a divide on these clauses. Then Jamaica will see those in the House who so wish to use their money to finance their party. I will go further than that, I am prepared also to run public advertisement come election time and remind Jamaicans of all of those who voted to have

their money go to financing campaigns.

“Warmington yuh dis poor people!” Government back-bencher and South East St Elizabeth MP Richard Parchment shouted across the aisle.

Meanwhile, the Opposition MP wanted the Speaker to rule against Buchanan for making a sotto voce “unparliamentary” remark about him, but the government members insisted that no such remark was made.

Things calmed down when Government MP and veteran member of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica Dr DK Duncan rose to speak.

Duncan pointed out that the need for registration of the political parties is clear and non-controversial. However, he admitted that there is criticism of the financing of the parties and their campaign, which was not unexpected when new ground is broken.

Jamaica, he said, is a multi-party democracy, which could become subjected to “big capital and big money” that could influence the parties and, eventually, their policies.

Dr Duncan said it is a question of political and social engineering, to allow the political system to improve itself and ensure that the rights which were gained at the time of adult suffrage are protected.

“If only some people can finance the political process, others will be left out. So it is important to keep that door open,” he said.

The debate will continue next at Gordon House.

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