Lawyers want public access to political funding draft bill

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has demanded public access to the Political Donations and Expenditure draft bill, set to be tabled in Parliament next year.

Executive director Eric Paulsen said that it is “unacceptable” that so little is known about the exact contents of the document.

“It is shocking that such important legislation, with wide-ranging repercussions on the political and possibly the civil society landscape, is being drafted surreptitiously and without any consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

“Laws should not be drafted in secrecy and then rushed through Parliament.

Paulsen added that it was suspect why such pertinent legislation was being drafted without genuine consultation with stakeholders, cautioning against its potential misuse.

“Will this legislation be misused to completely outlaw foreign funding or place unreasonable restrictions on foreign funding, as seen in states like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Hungary and Russia, in order to clamp down on independent NGOs critical of the government?” he asked.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Paul Low, who has been tasked with drafting the bill, previously said that consultations on the draft bill had already been carried out with relevant stakeholders, such as members of the public, interest groups, and political parties.

It was slated to be ready by the 14th General Election when first mooted in 2015, but has since been pushed back in time for the 15th General Election.

Low added that the draft bill would remove spending limits for election candidates, but impose new rules meant to enhance transparency in political financing and spending.

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