Bersih lists ‘measures’ for unity govt to ensure checks and balances

PETALING JAYA: The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) has listed down a few measures for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government to ensure strong and effective checks and balances to protect the public interest.

“Bersih notes with some concern the remark of Anwar yesterday that he is not considering the role of the Finance Minister ‘at the moment’,” the electoral watchdog’s steering committee said in a statement Saturday (Nov 26).

"He should not for a moment consider it as it would totally remove any semblance of check and balance in the inner sanctum of his own Cabinet,” it added.

Bersih also welcomed the statement of Perikatan Nasional chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin decision to remain as Opposition and rejecting Anwar's offer to be part of his unity government.

“Bersih calls on Anwar's government to enable the formation of a Shadow Cabinet for the Opposition with commensurate salary, resources and information access for its shadow ministers,” it said.

Every ministry should be scrutinised by only a shadow minister who would be paid half the ministerial salary and provided policy staff but no other perks, it added.

The group said there should also be a parliamentary select committee, filled by both government and Opposition backbenchers, with its own policy staff for each ministry. This, it said, will further strengthen scrutiny.

It also wants the passing of the Parliamentary Services Act to be expedited so that the resources for these additional committees and Shadow Cabinet can come directly from Parliament instead of the Finance Ministry.

“Standing Orders in the Dewan Rakyat have to be amended to reduce government control of the agenda and time, improving opportunities for Private Member's business, empowering PSSC (Parliamentary Special Select Committee) to act more independently and the management of confidence votes,” it said.

It is also calling for parliamentary reforms, with key institutions such as the Judiciary, the Election Commission and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to be independent and free from the influence of the Executive.

“A Key Appointment Commission to shortlist candidates for the relevant PSSC to further scrutinise would ensure that only independent and qualified candidates are shortlisted for the PM to recommend to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for appointment,” it said.

Bersih also said, as promised by Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional, the attorney general should remain as an appointee of the government and should not hold the role of Public Prosecutor.

“An immediate transfer of prosecution power to the Solicitor General (the apolitical No 2 in the Attorney General's Chambers) as a temporary measure and a provisional moratorium on prosecution of Opposition politicians on non-violence-related cases before the completion of AGC reform to avoid perception of selective prosecution or immunity,” it said.

Other important institutions outside of government structures that play an important role to hold the government of the day accountable are the media and civil society organisations, it added.

Bersih noted that a free press is also integral to a vibrant democracy as they shed a light on corruption, failures and shortcomings of the government, adding that the media should be unshackled from restrictive laws so that they can report without fear or favour.

“Under the new administration, the role of civil society should be acknowledged by allowing organisations that are deemed ‘political’, when they are actually working to advance human and political rights, to be duly registered under a reformed Registrar of Societies that is not influenced by the Executive.

“This would enable these NGOs to access funding and apply for tax-exempt status from the Finance Ministry,” it said.

The government, it added, should also consider setting up an independent Civil Society Commission to regulate NGOs and fund those who fulfill certain criteria so that they can do their work without constant concerns about sustainability and harassment from the authority.

On Thursday (Nov 4), Anwar took his oath of office as Malaysia's 10th Prime Minister before Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah at Istana Negara.

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