Controversial Campaign Financing Needs Strict Regulations

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His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert said that he has already spoken to the government about the findings from the preliminary report that was released by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association British Islands and Mediterranean Region (CPA BIMR) Election Observation Mission (EOM).

The preliminary report stated that some matters relating to the recently concluded general elections were in contravention of international best practice and during a media sit down the Governor said he has already broached discussion on the findings with the government.

The Queen’s Representative told reporters that the final report is being awaited, in order to have further discussions on the matter: “Yes there are issues in there which I have already discussed with the Premier. We will take it forward to Cabinet. Those include areas such as party financing (which) I think are extremely important and all of those areas I am hoping we can look at in due course but the first thing is to get the final report.”

In noting these points, the EOM said “there is distrust in the electoral system, and the Mission continues to express concern that the regulatory framework, particularly in relation to campaign financing, lacks transparency and undermines the equality and openness of the election process. The Mission also expresses concerns about the qualification to vote and stand as a candidate and verification practices which challenge the principle of universal suffrage.” During the last election campaign rumors circulated alleging multi-million-dollars party financing.

According to the Observer Mission these contravening matters includes the current Belonger status system. The preliminary report said: “Belonger status is not automatically acquired by birth or through citizenship, but by descent or by having held residence status for a minimum of 21 years and, reportedly, undertaken an additional application process likely to last several more years. This contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which seeks to ensure all individuals within its territory have the right to vote and stand as a candidate without distinction of any kind such as national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”  The 21-years residence requirement has been criticized for generations as it produces an “unwelcome” aura for those who want to make the BVI their home; it has also been criticized as a big deterrent for investors.

“Thus, there are citizens with resident status who are not granted suffrage rights and non-citizens residing abroad with the right to vote and stand. This again undermines the principles of equity, fairness and representation,” the report announced.

The Governor in responding to this suffrage point said: “I think it is an important issue that should be debated and discussed. There are people who have lived here for many, many years and want to be part of the Territory.”

The six-member Observer Mission was led by Hon. Palmavon Webster MHA from Anguilla included parliamentarians Jamie Greene MSP from Scotland, Glenn Bedingfield MP from Malta, Election Analysts Merce Castells from Spain and Matthew Salik from the United Kingdom; as well as Election Coordinator, Felicity Herrmann, from Germany. During his press meeting on 15 March Governor Jaspert expressed thanks and appreciation to the Mission.

By all indications, public opinion in the BVI has praised the Mission’s preliminary report for having pointed out sore and sensitive points needing urgent legislation and constitutional changes. Campaign financing by “puppet masters” is being seen by many voters as the root of corruption and bad governance.

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