Controversy Over Exclusion of Political Parties in NPO Bill
- Government & Politics
- May 17, 2023
- No Comment
The Non-Profit Organizations (NPO) Bill has been controversial since its inception, but one aspect that continues to ruffle the feathers of the NGO community is the bill’s exclusion of political parties. The bill was passed in the Senate back in March and, according to GOB, it was passed to comply with international anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism legislation. The bill seeks to tackle the noncompliance of NPOs as it relates to the Money Laundering and Terrorism Prevention Act. However, one group that was left out was political parties. The NGO community feels that the bill should have included the political sector, given that they receive a significant amount of monetary donations to finance their campaigns. Minister of the Public Service, Political and Constitutional Reform, Henry Charles Usher, explained that while he understands the concerns, GOB is working on a stand-alone bill for political parties.
Henry Charles Usher, Minister, Constitutional and Political Reform: “There was discussion when we met with the social partners about including political parties under this bill but the opposite to that or the other side of that is that it was felt that for campaign finance because political parties are such unique creatures and such unique entities that they needed their own bill. So to just include them in an NPO bill probably the different legislation, the different regulations would not be as strict as if it had its own campaign bill so I think those were the two schools of thought either you put it under the NPO bill or you form an entirely new legislation for political parties so I think that’s the direction that the group agreed to go with to look at having legislation for political parties. Also with the churches we gave an undertaking to the churches that we would look at separate and unique build a standalone bill for the churches so that as currently they fall under the NPO but there may be unique circumstances, unique issues with the church, with that entity that may need to have a standalone bill for them as well.”
While Usher says that GOB has received proposals on Campaign Finance from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and the Belize Business Bureau, firebrand attorney, Richard “Dickie” Bradley, says the NPO bill should have included political parties given their crucial role in the country’s governance.
Richard “Dickie” Bradley, Attorney at Law: “It can’t do no harm to have them on the list. It looks kind of bad that they’re exempted. It looks like they’re handling money and they don’t want to people to know. It’s an unfortunate situation because we say politicians but they’re also leaders of the country or will be future leaders of the country but thy are handling money. We have seen situations where some money pours into their hands and it doesn’t go through the proper system and so on so if we the people out here can be subject to that. By the way you know it’s foolishness, nobody is financing any terrorism in Belize. In fact we are bringing in the terrorists to come live among us and give them all kinds of special treatments so I don’t think we’ve reached that stage yet. We must make people abroad tell us foolishness and we follow them because we’re not using money to finance terrorism and in terms of the money laundering the people that are really laundering money the system can’t even touch them you understand ? Those people are large, you and me will get turned around. And the stupid thing that is happening where the poorer classes of people you get a little $2,000 come in through Money Gram or Western Union or so the people can’t pay you because you have to come show where you got the money for, who is sending the money, what you are getting it for. Small money you know ? Can anybody money launder with $2,000 or $3,000 in these high cost of living times here? Then poor people are going around and around trying to get somebody to say what is the purpose of having the money. That’s unfair. So they’re focusing a lot of attention on the smaller people and then the big money laundering that is going on with all those huge high buildings that are going up nobody is saying anything.”