The current situation in Antigua and Barbuda whereby the United Progressive Party (UPP) has acknowledge receiving monies from opposition leader Baldwin Spencer, that was donated by former president of the United Nations Assembly and former Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda (Dr John Ashe) brings directly into question the issue of the regulation of election campaign financing in the OECS States including the island of Montserrat.
The UPP issued a Press Release extract quoted as follows:
“The United Progressive Party (UPP) has acknowledged receiving monies from Opposition leader Baldwin Spencer, that had been donated by former president of the United Nations General Assembly, Dr John Ashe, but “it never knowingly accepted such as the proceeds of any crime”
The statement by the United Progressive Party (UPP) in my humble opinion represents a poor attempt to justify the actions of the former Antigua and Barbuda UPP Administration. The UPP leadership and in particularly former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer would have been aware of the salary paid by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and stipends being paid by the United Nations to former Ambassador Dr John Ashe.
Therefore, for the UPP to state it never knowingly accepted the donations as the proceeds of any crime, is tantamount to an acknowledgement of what is known as wilful blindness in anti-money laundering theory and practice. The UPP leadership including Baldwin Spencer had an obligation to ascertain from Dr John Ashe, the ultimate source of funding for the monies being donated as such monies would have been clearly over and above the income level of Dr John Ashe.
Political parties, similar to financial institutions and other designated financial institutions and professional intermediaries have the responsibility and obligation to ascertain the ultimate source of funds. This is especially important given the fact that it is well known and accepted that campaign financing is one way how criminals to influence and corrupt political officials in small island states.
I have noted that most countries of the OECS have moved to enact laws relating to integrity in public life. However, it is now glaringly obvious that there needs to be more disclosure and transparency in the electoral process in OECS Countries. Therefore, in my humble opinion, the time has come for OECS countries including Montserrat to serious consider enacting laws governing and regulating election campaign financing.
Note: Peter D. A. Queeley is an Economic and Financial Analyst