The Honourable Andrew Holness ON, MP
Prime Minister of Jamaica
The Official Launch of Political Parties Registration
January 15, 2018
Thank you Master of ceremonies,
The Honourable Justice Karl Harrison
Dr Peter Phillips, Leader of the Opposition
Colleague cabinet members,
The Honourable Dorothy Pine-McLarty, chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica and other commissioners
Ms Llofraun Thompson, Registrar of Political Parties
Mr Orrette Fisher, Director of Elections and other members of the electoral office of Jamaica
Heads of agencies and departments
Members of the private sector
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen good morning.
You will forgive my raspy voice but you know the change in weather has had an effect on many of us. I know that we can all say with one voice that a milestone has been achieved in the history of Jamaica this morning. We will now have a framework for the registration of political parties while also facilitating a system whereby an accurate and up-to-date record can be kept on each political party.
Political parties must lead from the front and set our houses in order. We must ensure that the mask of anonymity is removed leading to greater accountability and transparency. Just a while ago, I was looking back at various statements made in the press about the registration of political parties. Of course, as mentioned, by the speakers before me, this process started somewhere around 2009 and we had several debates in parliament. At one point, I was leader of government business so I was very familiar with the process and politicians will embrace things publicly but privately they may very well have concerns. I’m not saying that this was the case or maybe it was but it took some time for the political class to fully embrace the notion of registering political parties and also passing legislation for campaign financing and it is not that we didn’t understand what it was about; the concern would more be are the institutions and actors in the institution generally understanding of the intentions of the legislation and we’re standing here today because the political class has reached the point where I think we’re all convinced that this is a good move for the country, that all the institutions and actors aware of their role and that this new piece of legislation will be used as intended.
I reflected on a statement that I made in 2013, just going back and reading the records in an interview with the Observer and in that interview I said that we cannot continue to treat political parties as the hidden hand behind parliament and government. This piece of legislation now formalizes political parties in our democracy; that is what it does. Political parties will now have to place on record their financing and details of their operations, thereby lifting the veil because there is a sense that political parties are unregulated private fraternities. What we are doing today is to say that political parties are formal regulated institutions that play a critical role in the state and that’s a major shift in how we have viewed political parties in the history of Jamaica.
The antithesis of integrity, accountability and transparency is corruption. Corruption erodes the collective action and processes at the heart of democracy. It does this by reducing accountability and weakening the links between public participation and actions by policy makers. Corruption unravels the very fabric of democracy by reducing trust in government and institutions and undermines the legitimacy of those in power.
With the requirement of registration of political parties, we’ve now insured that there is a legislative underpinning that ensures objectivity and adherence to set standards and procedures without regard to who is in power. Additionally, the election campaign financing regulations will come into effect on the 1st of March this year.
Jamaica continues to be at the frontier of strengthening our political processes and we lead in this regard in the Caribbean. Whether it is the recognition by the organization of American states for Jamaica being a leader in the utilization of technology in elections or being featured by the Common Wealth for good governance in the conduct of elections, our achievements must be applauded. These recent regulations again place us as leader in political institutional reform in the Caribbean.
Ladies and gentlemen it cannot be business as usual. We have taken bold steps and we will continue to take bold and decisive steps to tackle crime and corruption, which are retarding our growth. We do acknowledge that it can be argued that the country does not lack legislative our institutional framework but the strength and functioning of these institutions and the enforcement of law is an issue. Renewed focus must therefore be placed on these aspects to instil a sense of law and order whether it is in the staging of an event or how we discard our waste or how we use or roads.
Today’s launch is another manifestation of the government’s focus on institutional reform in order to ensure our political and economic environment is conducive to productivity, transparency and growth. As you are aware, the government has pressed forward with several pieces of anti-corruption legislation in parliament including the Integrity Commission Act, which will certainly play a major role in building the culture of transparency and accountability. In essence, we are creating that rules-based environment to promote the three pillars: integrity, accountability and transparency. As mechanisms created to represent the views of citizens, political parties are in a powerful position to create a truly united approach to combat crime and violence and to address a culture that is insensitive and accepting of violence.
Ultimately, lasting reform is a function of empowering citizens and stakeholders to insist on basic rights and this depends on the rule of law and those who are in positions of authority to ensure that law is the rule. I was just reading the portfolio and I heard the chairman say that both political parties have registered or have submitted their registrations but in the portfolio- very interesting statement, that the democracy requires a strong competitive environment so in the spirit of that competitive environment chairman I’m sure you would confirm that the Jamaica Labour Party was the first to submit their registration. That’s how much we believed in it. This is an important step. It is transformational for our democracy and I’m very pleased to be here today. It was a long journey, a very long journey but we’re here today at a good moment. Thank you.