KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 ― Leaders from Pakatan Harapan (PH) and PAS have maintained reservations ahead of the first draft of a Bill regulating political financing expected to be completed this week.
Some have also expressed distrust and fear that the new law might be used against the Opposition, while others stressed on prohibiting government-linked corporations (GLCs) from donating to political parties or politicians.
“Datuk Saifuddin Nasution [Ismail] and I attended the so-called engagement session and left with a clear sense that the Integrity team was under political pressure by the powers that be and crucial concerns relating to the credibility of authorities tasked with eventual investigating and legal recourse were not sufficiently addressed,” PKR vice-president and co-election director Nurul Izzah Anwar told Malay Mail Online.
“We decided on principle that no law should proceed without first addressing the fundamental preconditions to ensure laws are meted justly, not partisanly,” the Lembah Pantai MP added.
The Malaysian Institute of Integrity (Integriti), which is the secretariat in charge of drafting the Political Donations and Expenditure Act (PDEA) based on recommendations from the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing, reportedly said the first draft would be ready this week and claimed that all political parties had “in principle agreed to the Act”.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low declined to reveal details about the draft Bill, telling Malay Mail Online that “everything is now in the works at the drafting committee”.
The 32 recommendations by the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing chaired by Low, which did not include any political parties, included creating a Controller’s Office to monitor political donations and expenditure; to declare contributions above RM3,000 to the Controller, with full disclosure of donor identity to the public to be made compulsory before the 15th general election; banning foreign funding; as well as barring state-owned enterprises and companies receiving government contracts from contributing to politicians or political parties.
Representatives from PKR, DAP, Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) and PAS told Malay Mail Online that they have met with Integriti over the past several months to discuss the PDEA.
DAP strategist Ong Kian Ming denied that the DAP has agreed to the PDEA.
“We have not seen the latest Bill, but our concerns remain the same, namely: the lack of caps on political donations and expenditure, the need for government funding for political parties and elected representatives from all sides, the lack of assurances that those who donate to Opposition parties will not be prosecuted and persecuted, the lack of reform of other aspects of election laws,” Ong told Malay Mail Online.
Countering Low’s claim that Malaysians did not support public funding of political parties because they might not favour certain parties or candidates, Ong said in most countries with public funding, the amount of funds allocated was in proportion to the number of votes won.
“You may not like Party X and the fact that Party X is getting public funding, but enough of other voters liked Party X and gave them X per cent of the votes, which should entitle them to public funding,” said the Serdang MP, stressing that state financing was necessary to even the playing field.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) Youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, who was briefly a part of the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing, also proposed imposing a limit on political donations, banning donations from GLCs and limiting corporate donations, and creating a “neutral” body to regulate political funding that reports to Parliament.
“Limit all donations to RM200,000 and all donations above RM10,000 must be recorded for transparency’s sake,” Syed Saddiq told Malay Mail Online.
“Problem there is that despite the lower limit to declare, there is no limit to donations and that it does not come with the reforms necessary to ensure that once people declare, they won’t be persecuted for supporting a particular party,” he added.
Amanah secretary-general Anuar Tahir told Malay Mail Online that his party was “more or less” agreeable with Integriti’s work after meeting them twice a few months ago, but stressed it has yet to see the draft Bill.
“Generally, it's good,” he said.
“Any GLCs or any companies that have contracts with the government shouldn't be asked to pay some amount to the ruling party, as if, if that party wins the next election, the contract will be continued. This amounts to corruption.”
PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said his party did not agree with “a few clauses” in the draft PDEA.
“Among our suggestions were to ban political parties from receiving foreign funds or corporate donations,” he told Malay Mail Online.
“PAS through Gagasan Sejahtera has called for an end to money politics. All pledges and contributions after the dissolution of the Dewan Rakyat must stop,” he added.
Gagasan Sejahtera is a coalition of Opposition parties comprising PAS, Ikatan and Berjasa.
Barisan Nasional leaders from Umno, MCA, Gerakan, and MIC were unavailable for comment.