Opaque political funding an issue


Analysts: The public cannot see which donations are influencing policy

PETALING JAYA: There is no mechanism currently to compel political parties to be transparent about their source of funds, says election observers.

Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Centre) deputy chief executive officer K. Sudhagaran Stanley said it was time for the public to urgently request political parties to seriously commit to tabling the Political Funding Bill.

“It is a major problem as the public cannot see which corporate giants, including developers, are donating money to political parties to influence policy.

“The public is also unable to see if state-level or federal-level government-linked companies (GLCs) are being abused to raise funds to finance the state elections.

“This is important as the major coalitions – Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional – all have access to GLCs at the state or federal level,” he added.

Sudhagaran said political funding is a massive problem in the country, and this could be seen through several high-profile cases involving politicians.

“So long as we don’t have a law to cover this, we will continue to see cases like 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and Jana Wibawa being repeated.”

He also said the public must monitor and question political parties that hand out goodies in exchange for votes during elections.

“The momentum must start from the ground as people are more aware of it,” he added.

Lawyer Amer Hamzah said that because there is no political funding law, it is difficult to monitor such activities.

“We still have to fall back on the Election Offences Act when it comes to buying election paraphernalia and such during election campaigns,” he said.

Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) chairman Thomas Fann said the public must demand the Political Financing Act be introduced to ensure that donations are channelled to parties and not individuals and amounts above certain limits are declared.

Given the high stakes in the upcoming state elections for both political sides, he said it is unlikely that politicians will be frugal or half-hearted in their spending and campaigning.

“There is little transparency by the parties in raising their funds as there is no legislation to compel them to disclose anything,” he added.

Fann said treats and bribery are the most common election offences Bersih has seen over the years in the form of free motor change, lucky draws and even outright cash handout.

Another common practice is abusing state resources for campaigning by incumbent federal or state governments.

“While these are not election offences in law, they are unethical as they violate the principle of fair play during elections,” he added.

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