A Stinking Mess…Omen of things to Come?

Read on get a whiff of how the general election rumblings in Jamaica are heating up.

Nothing shady
PNP says Trafigura funds above board
balford henry, Observer writer
Thursday, October 05, 2006
The People’s National Party (PNP) yesterday admitted receiving the donation of $31 million from Dutch oil trader Trafigura Baheer, but insisted that the transaction was proper and above board. “The party’s fund-raising team has been raising money for the upcoming general election, and has been receiving donations from both local and international private sectors and individuals,” chairman Robert Pickersgill told a press briefing at the party’s headquarters, on Old Hope Road, Kingston. “We are confident that all our contributions are proper and above board.” Pickersgill said that none of the funds were due to the state, that the payment was not a “kickback” for favours and that there was nothing “unethical” about the transaction.
PNP general-secretary Senator Colin Campbell explained that the party had not approached Trafigura for funds, but that the Dutch firm had offered the donation. “They made the offer. They said that they know elections are imminent in Jamaica and they are intending to make a contribution,” said Campbell. “I don’t know if it is for both political parties, but they spoke to me as the general-secretary of the People’s National Party.”

This is all nice and dandy and semingly above-board but with our out-dated and inadequate laws that govern campaign and political contributions it certainly warrants a closer look and yes, some alarm. Nothing short of limits on how much and WHO can give money to a political party needs to be investigated and shored up in legislation. Additionally, the Dutch firm should make a similar contribution to the JLP if they are indeed aware of the “imminent” elections in Jamaica. Otherwise, the stink of yet another improper action under the PNP will waft along in the air.

Pickersgill said that the PNP would be willing to disclose their funding, but only if the JLP agreed to do the same.”As long as they are going to do theirs, we will do ours,” Pickersgill insisted in response to suggestions from journalists that the PNP could set a precedent in making these disclosures. He added that the donation from Trafigura remains in the party’s national campaign fund-raising account and will, eventually, be reported to the party and dealt with by its National Executive Council (NEC).

Tit-fot-tat bullshit again. The PNP should try being ethical for once without doing the whole ‘nah nah ni boo boo, show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ business. Next step with regulating political & campaign financing: all donations should be capped, i.e. after $X, no more from that entity or business in which such entity has a controlling interest. Also all donors who give a certain amount, whether at once or as an accumulation, should be disclosed to the public. And no, I don’t mean on some stinking website, I mean in publicly accessible media. Nothing to hide? Disclose your sources!

Explaining the transaction with Trafigura, Pickersgill said that in terms of the leader of the Opposition’s allegations, “a corporate contribution was received three weeks ago from Trafigura Baheer”. Both Pickersgill and Campbell confirmed that First Global Bank, where the three cheques listed by the Opposition were lodged in early September, has been conducting investigations into how copies of the cheques reached the hands of the JLP. The cheques were drawn from First Caribbean International Bank. “I’ve been in touch with the bank and they have an investigation as we speak,” said Pickersgill. “The investigation started from last night (Tuesday), because this matter we are not taking lightly. But I repeat, not that we have anything to hide.”

Now this is some serious shit. No way in hell should such privileged financial information be leaked to anybody about anything. Can you imagine the total and absolute lack of discretion used with regard to our mere peasant accounts? Given that to open a bank account in Jamaica one must provide bloody references, I find this occurrence regarding the cheques highly suspicious, quite disgusting, and suspect that it is illegal…there is no way to explain or justify such a disclosure and if it’s a bank employee who made the disclosure, I see no reason why he/she should keep their jobs and should not be charged criminally. There must be something on the books under the somewhat burdensome laws to prevent money laundering that addresses this. Something else to consider: should Bruce have used this information, illegalally obtained, to bring the charge of illegal financing against the PNP? Frankly, the evidence used to make the allegation is as stink as the allegation itself. And again, nothing to hide? Disclose your sources?

In his revelation Tuesday evening, Golding had said that the euro 466,000 donated to the PNP by Trafigura was transferred to an account known as CCOC Association. Campbell explained yesterday that the letters CCOC stood for nothing in particular, but was the name of the account into which the party’s campaign finances are lodged. “Traditionally, we do not have fund-raising accounts that are designated in the name of the party. That is so because of the political environment in which we find ourselves,” Senator Campbell explained. He said that Portmore Gas in Bridgeport, St Catherine, the address to which Trafigura sent the funds, is a business owned by PNP supporter and businessman Norton Hinds, who is the head of CCOC Association and uses the address for some of its transactions. However, the Observer learnt that Hinds has owned Portmore Gas for more than a year. Hinds is chairman of both the Jamaica Urban Transit Company and the Transport Authority. Pickersgill said that the campaign account is in the name of SW Services/Team Jamaica and the monies go there from all sources. Prakash Vaswani, who is in charge of that fund, along with the general-secretary, report to the party and then the funds go to the NEC where they are accounted for.Campbell said that although the party fosters a culture of openness, there are some things which are private banking arrangements.”Some of these things have been breached in the most egregious fashion over the past few days,” Campbell said. “The PNP is entitled to have its banking arrangements with its bankers private. We may disclose what we would like to disclose, but nobody has the right to purloin our confidential documents in a bank and give it to the leader of the Opposition. That is what has happened.” PNP legal adviser, Senator A J Nicholson, said that both those who purloined the documents and those who received them are equally guilty, as they may have induced the workers to “hanky-panky” and bring the documents to them. Pickersgill said that the Government has no intention of revoking the contract with Trafigura because, “to dislodge Trafigura now, somebody would have to say give us 14 or 15 cents”. Trafigura pays the Government 12 cents per barrel of oil. Summing up the situation, Senator Nicholson said that the Opposition must have been suggesting that the PNP had received state funds when they referred to “sleaze” and named two ministers of government in the issue. “When a person who operates a company in Jamaica and gives money to a political party, is it to be readily assumed that that party is in the pocket of that person who gives money, or anywhere else?” he asked. “Unless it can be shown that there was some hanky panky in this gift, that is the end of the matter.”

Something shady with this CCOC Association. Can’t put my finger on it but I’ll see what comes to mind as I ruminate. And then A.J. Nicholson – please, honey. Just because there is no proof of “hank-panky” doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no “hanky-panky.” And yes, donations from companies with whom the government does business should be subejct to a critical amount of scrutiny. Frankly, everything in Jamaican politics is to be taken with a hefty dose of salt. I really hope for no “hanky panky” but good grief. Again, to help avoid such stinking incidents involving political and campaign funding, fix the laws.

And while we’re at it, we need to have a fixed election date because Sister P is sounding like she’s feeling her oats a lil bit too much with her pronouncements about ‘when shi ready to call election.’ Foolishness! She’s holding Jamaica and all who have interests in Jamaica hostage with these wannabe bad woman tactics. Each party should have a fair chance at campaigning for the next election. As it stands now, the JLP just has to keep up a significant momentum (read: use their limited funds wisely) with some phantom date in mind, while the PNP has the luxury of having an end in sight and therefore an advantage (read: can spend, spend, spend and know how much to save for the home stretch). Cool it, Sister P. Between this dictator-like attitude and this damn ‘beuatification’ project you’re looking like more of the same rather than the breath of fresh air we so desperately hoped for…and need.

mood: why isn’t today Friday? sounds: Dancehall Splurt on 1XTRA (an awful dancehall remix of Diddy’s song with the chick from PCD)


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