By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
A CODE of conduct and rules governing how candidates receive campaign finances are features of the Progressive Liberal Party’s constitutional overhaul, a move party officials say signals the organisation’s transition into reform.
This reform will ensure transparency, accountability and honesty, according to Raynard Rigby, PLP Constitutional Committee chairman.
The rules are also changing when it comes to the selection and appointment of PLP stalwart councillors. PLPs want a set number of councillors to be appointed yearly with the assurance there is balance to this process.
Even the process by which election candidates are chosen will change to more of a primary type system used in the United States where hopefuls would need to be elected by those in the constituency and then ratified by the National General Council.
Presently the Candidates Committee, which is comprised of the leader, deputy, chairman, secretary general and 15 others selected by the chairman after consultation with the leader, make up this committee. They have the authority to review and select a candidate, which is then approved by the NGC.
According to Mr Rigby, this is the first time in 65 years a code of conduct is being enshrined into party law. He said officials were also aiming to expand the party’s base and “democratise” the organisation.
It seems the party not only wants to improve public perception, but wants to appear sensitive to the concerns of the public and its supporters.
The last time any amendments were approved for the PLP’s constitution was in 2005 during the organisations 49th national convention.
“This is the first time ever that any political organisation in the Bahamas has enshrined a code of conduct in their constitution,” Mr Rigby said on the sidelines of the party’s one-day special constitutional convention at Trinity Activity Centre in Stapledon Gardens on Saturday.
“We are breaking new ground in that regard in the PLP. What it would mean is it deals with and addresses how party members should deal with each other, members of the public, finance reform, issues of how a Cabinet minister should conduct the affairs of his portfolio in relation to donations and fundraising activities in these constituencies. It’s really to ensure that there is accountability, transparency and honesty in the public profile of our members.
“It is probably the most comprehensive approach to campaign finance reform in a political party. We provide for accountability in terms of how a candidate or member would receive donations (and) engage in fundraising activities etc, etc,” he also said, when asked by The Tribune if the changes would incorporate campaign financing.
When it comes to stalwart councillors, Mr Rigby said officials took into consideration the concerns of supporters.
Concerns in this regard have surfaced from time to time from well-known PLPs, including Leslie Miller and Alfred Sears.
In January 2017, just days before the party began its three-day convention, Mr Miller lamented that by appointing hundreds of stalwarts, it was an act of “overkill” towards Mr Sears, former attorney general, who at the time sought to dethrone then leader, former Prime Minister Perry Christie. Mr Miller said he did not think it was fair that as many as 300 councillors, according to one report, had been added.
Mr Sears went on to later file a formal complaint to the party’s trustees over the issues and called into question the integrity of the party’s electoral process.
In this regard Mr Rigby said: “We have changed the use of the power and selection and appointment of the stalwarts (that) has been carried out in the past.
“What you will now have is based on the feedback from this convention the majority of voters and members wanted a system where the party identified a specified amount of stalwarts to be appointed per year and the National General Council will exercise that power to ensure that there is balance in the party and so all times in the appointment of new stalwarts the council will have to ensure that there is a balancing exercise being carried out from delegates from the constituency level and delegates at the stalwart councillor level.”
However, it is unclear when these changes will be made public.
This is because the committee will have to go back and factor in all of the proposed changes, Mr Rigby said. Once this is complete the changes must again face the scrutiny of those in the party.
The session was suspended to a date to be later announced.