The Rakyat Post 31 August 2015

THE weekend’s yellow-themed rally is over now. It was a very peaceful, disciplined rally, I must say.
People expected tear gas and water cannons to be used on the Bersih participants but none of that happened.
In fact, the police were there to ensure everyone’s safety — divert traffic, gave advice to organisers and participants, etc.

This, we should look at positively. Thumbs up to the police!

But there is a bigger picture to this that we must not miss.

Now that the 2-day Bersih rally is over, to those who wore yellow shirts in KL and other cities, those who changed their Facebook profiles to yellow, those who stayed at home, we as Malaysians must all ask the hard questions now.
Where do we go from here? What’s next? What do we want to achieve by the next general election?

We must not forget that Bersih is about clean and fair elections. It is about reforms to the system.

One of the primary reasons people marched over the weekend was because of the US$680 million “political donation” which went into Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s account.

People demand transparency, people want him to resign because of it.

No one knows from whom it came from and people demand a tell-all answer from Najib despite the statement by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) that it wasn’t from 1MDB, but from the Middle East.

No one knows how it was spent on elections and let’s not beat around the bush, the people want answers. The full version.

But we can prevent all these from happening again and secure the better, brighter and transparent future that we all want if Bersih is willing to return to the objective of the movement and stay true to it.

A few weeks back, on Aug 14, the government announced the establishment of the National Consultative Committee on Political Funding.

The members of the committee include Akhbar Satar, who is president of Transparency International Malaysia, Wan Saiful from IDEAS (Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs), as well as activist Richard Yeoh.

This committee was set up to examine and evaluate legal mechanisms and rules used in other countries to curb and prevent corruption in political funding.

They will also be drafting the legal and regulatory requirements to facilitate the monitoring, transparency and accountability in political parties’ funding.

They have a year to complete this task, way before the 14th General Election is due. Whether anything will come out of it, I don’t know.

There’s always the ballot box where we can exercise our right to vote if we are disappointed with the outcome.
But before it even kicked off, Opposition leaders like Nurul Izzah Anwar were quick to throw in conditions and said “we cannot and should not proceed with such discussions”.

Why not?

Let’s face it. Elected representatives earn between RM5,000 and RM15,000, depending on whether you are an MP (Member of Parliament) or Adun (state assemblyman) and which state, plus the annual allocation of RM200,000 or more for the constituency.

Do you think that’s enough to feed a family, send kids to school, pay for political operations, contribute to local community, donate a token back to your party, fund programmes and the politician’s election campaign and, at the end of the day, still have some savings for retirement?

Political parties receive political donations to fund programmes, operations and elections.

No politician or political party will unconditionally deny that they received donation from any individual or company.

Nothing is free and funds must come from somewhere.

Do we not want to know who or which company donated to Umno, Barisan Nasional DAP, PKR, PAS and the politicians, if any?

How much was given to them, what was the political donation spent on and why did they contribute to the party?
This is a grey area. An unsupervised, unlegislated space.

Questions like “why don’t you show your accounts first?”, “who donated that RM1 million and expects nothing in return, seriously?” or “who funds your party? How did you manage to build a new office? Crony gave you money?” will never end.

This sort of quarrels between supporters of both sides will continue for eternity unless the element of transparency, through legislation, kicks in.

Let’s push for reforms, Bersih. That was what you were meant to do.

The Bersih rally was a movement, a symbolic action which is over now.

But the actual cause, the true objective, and the real work must go on.

Surely, it can’t be just about anger, hatred, vuvuzelas, coloured shirts and placards.

So, let’s pressure our politicians from both sides of the political divide to back the political financing reforms.
Take the first step, support it. Will that be your next move, Bersih?

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