The main opposition party, the PUP is promising to bring about legislation on campaign financing if they are elected into Government later this year. The Belize Network of NGOs (BNN), however, is demanding that the legislation be done immediately. The network issued a release yesterday referring to this week’s political fallout and the testimonies given in the Utah courtroom, demanding that the Government takes all necessary steps to immediately introduce campaign finance legislation to set out transparency and parameters on how funds are provided to political parties and candidates vying for public office. Senator Osmany Salas explained what exactly the BNN wants done.
Senator Osmany Salas, Senator for NGO’s: “It is long overdue for the country to have campaign finance laws. So just with what is happening right now with the exposé from the Dermen Utah trial how a senior minister Minister Saldivar was implicated , all these text messages that came out, it is high time that once and for all we address the issue of campaign financing. It will not be a straightforward easy matter but legislation is sorely needed, discussions are needed to determine what all should be covered. It has been too long where money that has been secured,many a times from highly questionable sources, external sources, have financed elections and campaigns in this country; that in itself is not good for our nation because then as most of us would understand who pays the piper calls the tune and who should be calling the tune should be the voters of this country but because of what we call ‘political ‘clientelism’ where resources, public resources at times,resources from external sources many a times are used to induce our voters, that bodes very bad for our democracy. Campaign financing legislation is one step but a very important step for us to start and put some kind of control and regulation over that, how political parties are financed and how political campaigns are financed that essentially was what we were hoping to put across with our press release. They won’t accept it easily, we have to keep pressing for it. When I heard the Prime Minister in his previous press conference say something to the effect that ‘much to his chagrin this country does not have campaign financing regulations.’ the first thing that came to my mind was ‘but you had twelve years to put something like that in place’, it was not. I heard on yesterday’s press conference presentation by the leader of the opposition that he intends that to be one of the first things he does in his first one hundred days if his party wins the upcoming general elections. Now politicians have promised a lot of things and they have not delivered on many of those so that is why I made a point of coming to the launching of the BNTU’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations because as social partners we have a critical role to play to ensure that they don’t forget their promises and their commitments and that we keep pushing and asking for this. It’s long overdue, needs to be done.”
In an interview yesterday with Patrick Faber, he says he conditionally supports the legislation on campaign financing. The BNN went on in their release to say that they believe that the new campaign finance laws should include limits on the size of contributions to political parties and political candidates, require that all campaign contributions be declared, that spending in elections be regulated, and that election expenses be made publicly available and subject to limits for candidates and registered political parties, among other provisions. Unregulated and unsanctioned campaign contributions threaten our national interest.