Possible infringements of the ethical political code by some parties/candidates in THA campaign

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Possible infringements of the ethical political code by some parties/candidates in THA campaign

Political parties contesting the December 6th Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election appear to be in breach of aspects of the code of ethical political conduct.

So said Dr Bishnu Ragoonath, chairman of the Council for Responsible Political Behaviour.

In a statement on Saturday, the Council said based on reports, in the national print and electronic media, on the week of campaigning after Nomination Day, concerns have been raised as to possible infringements of the code by some political parties/candidates.

The council cited the recent announcement of the government’s $50 million disbursement to the THA as an example of public funds being used to improperly influence electoral choice.

The council said while many may view it as an important injection into the Tobago economy, “the fact remains that announcing this disbursement within three weeks of an election fuels the claim that public funds are being used improperly.”

“More critically, this claim follows the previously published statements that at least one incumbent secretary admitted to signing (authorising) blank application forms for government emergency social assistance.”

The council said the code categorically states that parties and candidates agreed to “not permit the use and abuse of state resources for political campaigns” and “not use funds derived from any source, public or private, to improperly influence electoral choices.”

Another concern relates to published reports of slander and character assassination.

The council said based on the code, the leaders, candidates and supporters of political parties agreed to not make false or defamatory allegations in print or speech in connection with an election in respect of a party, its candidates, representatives or members.

They also agreed to not seek to assassinate the character of or make defamatory comments about any individual, family, professional group or section of the community as well as maintain the highest moral principles and ethical standards with respect to their conduct during the campaign.

The council reminded the political parties and their supporters that they are expected to exercise a level of responsibility.

The leaders of the five parties in the election signed the code of January 8, giving the commitment that their candidates and supporters would ensure that all of its provisions are upheld.