Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips said that the registration of political parties is a first step forward towards greater accountability of political parties and an important way of overseeing the affairs of institutions that form Government.
Dr. Phillips was speaking at the Electoral Commission of Jamaica’s launch of the registration of political parties at the Pegasus Hotel on January morning.
He said the Registration of Political Parties provides for greater oversight and accountability in the Political organisations and this can be a key step towards restoration of the basic fabric of trust which is essential to any progressive society.
“But this by itself is not enough, as the overall goal is to have the political system operate in a manner that all can be proud and have trust and confidence,” he said.
Dr. Phillips added that the law by itself will not “…transform and root out the corrupt elements and dysfunctional behaviour in our politics.”
The Opposition Leader noted that there is a perception that corruption persists at all levels of the political system and the public sector generally; especially as it relates to accounting for the source of funds that enter the political system and impact governance and credibility.
Dr. Phillips pointed to the most recent Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, where Jamaica slipped 14 places from 69 in 2015 to 83 in 2016 and noted that “Perhaps it’s no wonder then that the two main political parties have just fewer than 50 per cent of the support of the electorate.”
But, he said “we cannot leave it there; this is a situation that must be corrected with some urgency because it not only threatens the legitimacy of the political system as people lose confidence in the integrity of their national leaders”.
He said that such a situation helps to destroy the basic fabric of trust which is essential to any progressive society.
Dr. Phillips explained that attempts made in the past to clean up the political landscape, chiefly the signing of the Political Code of Conduct in 2005, failed to make a serious mark.
“It is assumed that both political parties will exercise appropriate self-restraint and control in abiding by the Code. Yet breaches continue. And public looks on and forms their judgment,” he said.
Dr. Phillips observed that the expectation of self-restraint by political parties is often breached, perhaps the time has come to establish legislative teeth for enforcement.
“Let’s also use the momentum from today to push for legislative teeth for the Political Code of Conduct establish/consolidate penalties for persons who breach the Political Code of Conduct. So that those who violate its provisions and those who breach its agreement will be subject to prosecution and to the appropriate punishment if found guilty,” he said.
Dr. Phillips cautioned that the key to making the law works will be enforcement. “Let us together take that step to making it law so Jamaicans know we are serious about our political transformation and re-establishing trust and confidence with the society”.