First published in Malaysiakini
By Malaysiakini , (c) 2016, MKINI DOTCOM SDN. BHD. (c) 2016

Political donations should be deposited in a separate bank account while foreign donations should be prohibited, said the National Consultative Committee on Political Funding (JKNMPP).

These are among the preliminary decisions arrived by the committee, following its third meeting yesterday to discuss private funding for political parties and politicians.

The committee, which was set up in August last year to consult stakeholders on introducing new regulations on political funding, said it is on track meet its August 2016 deadline.

Moving forward, the committee is currently undertaking a comparative study on political funding in countries like Mexico, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, and Indonesia to analyse their best practices, and to set a benchmark for Malaysia to eventually introduce its own set of regulations,” it said in a statement today.

In addition, a conference on political funding will also be held in Kuala Lumpur on April 26 and 27, while the committee’s secretariat is also welcoming members of the public to write in with suggestions.

The committee is headed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Paul Low, and its 17 other members include its deputy chairperson and Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Idris Jala, Transparency International Malaysia president Akhbar Star, and Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan.

As for the preliminary decisions yesterday, the committee said the prohibition on foreign donations is to safeguard Malaysia’s sovereignty and protect local politics from foreign influence.

Any political donation would also need to be kept in a separate bank account, so to allow independent auditors appointed by a ‘controller’ to verify the receipts and expenditures.

The statement did not explain the powers and functions of the controller in-depth, and is silent on its appointment process.

These issues have become controversial since July last year due to allegations that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had RM2.6 billion deposited in his personal bank accounts, most of which is political donation from a Saudi prince.

A smaller portion, about RM42 million, came from the Finance Ministry-owned SRC International.

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing, while attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali had cleared him and decided not to press charges.

No limit on private funding

Meanwhile, the JKNMPP said donations from corporations should not come from government-linked companies, and the companies should not be benefiting from any significant government contract or concession.

In addition, the donations must be declared to the ‘controller’ within 14 days and made public, or it would be deemed to be ‘gratification’ and both the donor and recipient can be charged under anti-corruption laws.

However, the committee said it has decided against imposing any limit on private political funding.

Anonymous donations are also allowed provided that the amount does not exceed RM1,000.

This is specifically to facilitate crowd funding initiatives through the internet,” it said.

The committee said it has also considered whether to supplement the private funding with state coffers, as is done in some countries.

The committee is of the opinion that allocation of funds to support service centres merits consideration, and that such financial support is essential to empower each elected representative to serve his/her constituency more effectively.

However, funding from the state for election campaign purposes of individual candidates or political parties is not necessary,” it said.

Donations in kind are prohibited unless declared in advance to the controller, and donations from criminal sources are absolutely prohibited.

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