The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LOP), Mathias Mpuuga has advised Members of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago to exercise caution when writing laws on campaign financing.
Addressing Members of a joint select committee of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago that is scrutinising The Representation of the People [Amendment] [No.2] Bill 2020, Mpuuga advised the MPs to draft a law that establishes an independent entity to handle political party financing.
“In setting up a political parties public funding mechanism, the legal drafters must think very carefully about the choice of the institution or authority given for administration. It shouldn’t be like our Electoral Commission is grossly partisan,” Mpuuga said.
His address to the MPs of the dual island Caribbean nation on Monday night is part of the peer-to-peer exchange program supported by the International Republican Institute (IRI), an organisation funded under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Besides providing for a legal framework for campaign financing, money laundering and corruption, the draft law also seeks to expand the functions of Trinidad and Tobago’s Elections and Boundaries Commission.
Such a body, Mpuuga said, needs to act without undue influence from the government.
“The reliance on a partisan appointed electoral commission to be the administrator of the political parties and organisations’ public funding [in Uganda] failed the neutrality test,” Mpuuga said, adding that, “At the core of justification for political parties public financing under a multiparty dispensation is the desire to deepen democracy in a country.”
He criticised the 2008 amendments to Uganda’s Political Parties and Organizations Act, 2005, specifically Sections 9 and 12 that he said were intended to limit the funding of opposition parties from private and foreign sources.
“It came as a half hearted justification for the state to clamp down on foreign donations,” he said.
While the law provides for government funding for all registered political parties or organisations in respect of elections & their normal day to day activities, he argued, it is being used suffocate political opposition.
“The NRM government introduced the amendment with a different ideological target from the other opposition parties. It has never been in the wish list for the ruling party to strengthen multiparty democracy in Uganda,” Mpuuga said.
“As of today, no opposition political party activity can take place outside the walls of the party headquarters or within the precincts of the Parliamentary building,” he added.
He also accused the government of using the funding as a bait to bring parties around the table in order to cover up on its excesses such as human rights abuses.