In the recent months, opposition parties including a few members of the civil society raise the issue of electoral reform – stressing the need for a better system of conducting the general elections in 2010 and beyond. In this regard, suggestions were made to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit on how electoral reform can greatly avoid bloodshed and contention during and after the next general election.
But these persons who have been crying for equal access to state-owned media, a clean voters list and voter identification care have apparently forgotten the subtle issue of the funding of political campaigns.
The view that money tends to corrupt the political process was recently described by Wellington Ramos of Belize who on October 17, 2008 wrote an article on Caribbean Net News dot Com saying that:
â€œTwo of the most dangerous thing that can happen to our democracy is to allow people with money to pay our citizen to vote for them to assume office and for people with money to use their funds to run for office even though they are not capable and competent to carry out the duties of the office they seekâ€.
Ramos further argues that in circumstances like these, where campaigns organized by poor people are funded by the rich, the officials that are elected will merely become string-puppets of the rich.
There is no doubt that money and politics are inseparable twin brothers. Money basically determines who runs, who wins and ultimately how they govern. And Iâ€™m sure that anyone who has witnessed political campaign here will attest to the fact that it takes a lot of money to run these campaigns. Take the last two elections for example, where the two major political parties spent millions of dollars on billboards; radio, television and newspaper advertising; organizing massive rallies; paying airline tickets for persons form the diaspora to return home to vote and the on-the-ground campaign from house to house and village to village.
In fact some political analysts speculate that the spending for the 2010 campaign will be the most expensive election campaign every held in Dominica. The recently held US Presidential election is prime example of how money is essential to win any election. President- elect Barack Obama, raised a staggering US$640.00 million, which Obama publicly disclosed to American People.
Hell would probably have to freeze over before any political party in Dominica publishes its source of funding. Do you recall Prime Minister Skerritâ€™s â€œItâ€™s Not Your Damn Businessâ€ reaction when he was questioned about his party funding?
We need laws that will regulate the political corruption culture here in Dominica. Soon citizens will have little faith and confidence in their elected officials and they will, understandably, be unwilling to participate in the process of nation building.
In the interest of good and accountable government in Dominica â€“ Do you think there should be laws in Dominica that regulates political campaigns? Should the Electoral Commission place a limit on expenditure for advertising during election campaigns, and demand full disclosure of political party financing? Let’s hear ’em comments.
I guess I am a little confused about how you can even have publicly corrupt politicians in a country as small as Dominica. I am first to admit naivete about the political workings of Dominica, but with a population of registered voters of MAYBE 100,000 how does it happen?
The problem in Dominica is that many people have a stake in the corruption process, even if its not a mjaor secret in a small society. The talk shows are very much alive in the country so some rumours or accusations do not stay under wraps for too long. compounding the issue is that there is not a lot of oversight of public officials and many times its up to the party to act (except of course at elections time). Even though officially the president appoints top officials, it does this on advice from the government (the ruling party technically) anyhow.
Food for thought: small under-developed or developing countries have tremendous opportunities for corruption and many hands are outstretched. Corruption takes many forms. In some cases its the unfair handouts or disrtribution of assets, jobs or scholarship “for the boys”, nepotism, waiver of (what may otherwise high) taxes or duties..you name it. It happens everyday. Some are the by products of politics.
If one wants to have a more global review, we can look at the transparency International rankings:
Dominica falls at no. 33 out of 180 countries; much better than most. See if you find any country which surprises you on the level of ranking.
Talking about workings of Dominican political parties, let me see if I can give you some idea of how ingenous and bankrolled the parties can be. Do you know that the ruling party paid for plane tickets and ground transport for hundreds of Dominicans oversees to return home to vote in the 2005 elections? Some said it made a difference in the outcome in some communities. Do you think the ruling part woud ever disclose the sources of the funds? Do you think that was local? I am sure the major players have benefited in some ways since the election. It would be interesting to know if there is a link between the various ambassadors appointed by the government to various countries and sources of finance in political campaigns. But some of that happens in other countries too….
Among other checks, maybe there should also be laws ensuring that those appointments of high level public officials are vetted by a parliarmentary commitee. Dominica is too small for such complications some may say. See for example, how difficult (or politically not opportune) it was to implement the Integrity Commission…. Certainly it is in the interest of ruling parties not to expose themselves to that extent.
The irony of it is that the Labor party came in as the corruption antidote that was urgently needed in 2000. This is the same party that has brought into the fold what it used to label as the corruption symbol from the other party for political expediency.. and which has now fired a minister supposedly on similiar accusations.
So we must all do our part not to promote corruption. Maybe if more of us do it, some politicians will learn.. Ask for appointments strictly on merit and patiently wait one’s turn for an opportunity. No special treatment (pay the exhorbitant customs duty out of civic duty and not go to our cousin, the customs officer to decrease it or pay almost nothing). Apply for scholarships by waiting for the ad in the papers (don’t ask Aunty Catherine to put in a word..). Wait to get that prime piece of land sub-divided ..instead of asking your old schoolfriend Tom to make sure your application gets on top of the pile.. Ministers should not accept certain freebies and money under the table to favor exclusive contracts for multi million contracts they made happen…the list is long…but making these doings a symbol of political power certainly makes the hard campaign worth it to some…
Corruption is endemic to human nature. The only difference between large wealthy countries and small poor ones is the scale of the corruption. Think about the petty corruption in town councils in the US and you may understand.
No law can eliminiate corruption. It requires vigilence and prosecution and an informed public.