PM: Campaign finance bill coming back to Parliament

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaking at the Conversations with the Prime MInister series held at Skiffle Bunch Pan Theatre, San Fernando on March 5. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

THE Prime Minister has promised the Government will bring campaign-finance legislation back to the floor of the Parliament some time this year.

Dr Rowley gave this commitment at a Conversations with the Prime Minister forum at Skiffle Bunch Pan Yard, Coffee Street, San Fernando on March 5.

Responding to a question from Progressive Party leader Nikoli Edwards, Rowley recalled this was “one of the earliest bills that we laid in the Parliament.”

That bill was laid shortly after the PNM won the September 7, 2015 general election. Campaign finance and whistleblower legislation were two pieces of legislation the PNM had promoted as priorities in its campaign for that election.

The Opposition UNC has refused to support whistleblower legislation.

Rowley said the Government decided to send campaign-finance legislation to a parliamentary joint select committee (JSC) in the hope that it would get the support of opposition and independent parliamentarians.

Nikoli Edwards during the question and answer segment at the Conversations with the Prime MInister series held at Skiffle Bunch Pan Theatre, San Fernando on March 5. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

“We took it to JSC, hoping that all the MPs would have an input to be able to come to something.”

But Rowley lamented that legislation “has failed to find any enthusiasm with our colleagues.”

He identified the Opposition as the colleagues in question.

Rowley said the UNC is also unenthusiastic in supporting legislative issues it is promoting.

“Even matters they brought, they won’t support their own bills.”

He told his audience the Government will not be deterred by the whims and fancies of the UNC.

“It is my intention to bring that bill back, probably during this year.”

Rowley said Government may want to let the bill stay before the JSC for a little while longer to give the UNC a chance to support it, before bringing it back to the Parliament floor.

While hopeful that the bill could be dealt with before Parliament goes on its annual recess in July, Rowley was not overly optimistic this would happen by then.

He said even if all aspects of the legislation cannot be enacted into law before next year’s general election, “The Government on its own should be able to make sufficient useful upgrades of the current law by way of amendment to allow the modernisation of money in elections in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Edwards told Rowley this would be a step in the right direction.

He said even if partially enacted, some version of campaign-finance legislation could give young people and aspiring politicians a benefit which incumbent politicians do not currently have.

Edwards added that the former could be able to “walk into a political system that is not fraught with the kinds of issues that we have right now and then we can have greater respect for our leaders who are walking the straight and narrow and being held accountable.”

He urged Rowley to deliver on the PNM’s promise to enact campaign-finance legislation

“You will get no argument from me on that.”