By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com]–Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr. Steve Surujbally is insisting that there should be limits to the amount of money spent during election campaigns by contesting Parties.
The GECOM Chairman expressed fears that if this is not done, Guyana could become a “Narco – State,” resultant from a government of drug kingpins.
He said the issue of campaign financing has been engaging his attention and that of the Commission for some time now.
“My file on this issue is very large,” he said while addressing a packed room at the Public Forum organized by the Georgetown Chamber of commerce and Industry (GCCI), at the Pegasus Hotel this morning (Tuesday, June 10).
Dr Surujbally pointed to the challenges in capping campaign financing while making reference to a recent ruling by the United Supreme Court that limiting such spending is unconstitutional.
“We must put brakes on such spending because the effects of not doing so can be destructive… it’s a rough battle; the question is can we win on this?”
Meanwhile, in response to a question on GECOM’s effectiveness to prevent wealthy families from buying elections, in the context of the new Local Government laws which allows for individuals to contest elections, GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander said the local laws on financing are inadequate.
“GECOM works with laws that are in place, but currently there is nothing to work with and personally I think there is an absence of political will in this regard,” he stated.
Alexander believes however that there are ways around these challenges. He said if an individual who is contesting the elections has a “good pair of legs and can go from door to door then the big bucks wouldn’t make the difference if that person has a good track record.”
The panel at this morning’s Forum, which also included President of the GCCI Lance Hinds and GECOM’s CEO Keith Lowenfield, was asked in this context the importance of the stalled Anti – Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Amendment Bill in determining the source of financing of this sort to which Hinds claimed he did not see a correlation and no one else responded.