KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 — Enacting a political financing law would be a good start to curbing the scourge that is corruption and inefficiencies in the regulation of the country’s electoral system, said Malaysian Bar president, Karen Cheah Yee Lynn.
She said currently, save for the outdated provisions of the Election Offences Act 1954, there was no legislation in Malaysia to govern political financing, thereby creating an ecosystem ripe for corruption.
“There are regulations on anonymous donations or even donations from foreign sources,” she said in her opening remarks at a joint conference on ‘Political Financing Act: Current Status, Challenges and the Way Forward’, organised by IDEAS and the Bar Council, here, today.
“Political parties are governed by the Societies Act 1960 and while they are required to submit their audited financial statements to the Registrar of Societies, there is no need for them to reveal the sources of their donations.
“This lacuna in the law which also includes the lack of effective criminal laws and sufficient enforcement powers in our Election Commission, forms part of the problem which contributes to the opaqueness of our political institutions.
“As Malaysians, we are no strangers to allegations of corruption and misappropriation of monies by those in positions of power.
“The Malaysian news cycle is filled with news relating to corruption and since 2015, Malaysia have been embroiled in the notorious 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) controversy and we are still reeling from the after-effects of the scandal until today.
“So, the relevant laws in Malaysia need to be reviewed and amended. The Malaysian Bar has consistently stood by the fact that we need a law to govern political financing and we continue to urge for the enactment of such legislation,” she added.
Cheah also said that such laws would set limits on candidates and parties’ expenditures, enhance public disclosure and properly regulate the structure of political financing in the general elections or party elections.
She noted that many other countries including Singapore, India, the United States and the United Kingdom have enacted elaborate and sophisticated laws that dictate what are acceptable behaviour of politicians and political parties.
“The issues attached to political financing are multifaceted, intricate and complex and there will be many hurdles that we will face.
“There are no straightforward answers and no single magic bullet that can change the political landscape overnight.
“However, Rome was not built in a day and I firmly believe that with enough political will and a properly thought out strategy, the necessary laws can be enacted to ensure cleaner and fairer elections.
“Also, there needs to be a greater ability for the public to participate in decisions that affect them, and the relevant authorities must listen and engage adequately on the concerns voiced by the public to promote accountability and instil confidence,” Cheah said.
On May 19, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government had agreed in principle to the proposed Political Funding Bill and the policy scope would be tabled to the Cabinet soon. — Bernama