‘A corrupt political funding system is to blame.’
Elected representatives are not Santa Claus or welfare officers to their constituents, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) Democracy and Governance unit manager Aira Nur Ariana Azhari said.
Aira said this at a Bersih panel discussion today (Oct 1) titled ‘Political Finance Reform Agenda in Malaysia’ in conjunction with the International Democracy Day Commemoration held on Sept 15.
“(There is) this expectation of them (elected representatives) to be a sort of Santa Claus or a welfare officer to their constituents.
“…a lot of the feedback that we get from the young politicians across the country is that their constituents expect them to practically do and provide everything for them,” she said.
Both Aira (below) and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) chairperson Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj questioned why individual politicians are relied upon to cater to every constituent’s basic necessity, such as providing rice and paying their phone bills.
Aira further questioned why funds were not used to empower the local Social Welfare Department that oversees catering to these basic needs.
She and Jeyakumar attributed these additional responsibilities to the corrupt political financing system in Malaysia.
The panellists stressed the importance of implementing a public funding policy for political parties in Malaysia based on a research report previously launched by Bersih, titled “Public Funding for Political Parties: Debates, Case Studies and Recommendations” by Ooi Kok Hin, an analyst from the School of Political Science at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.
According to the electoral reform group, the channelling of funds to political parties should be done in accordance with three recommendations, namely vote-based direct public funding to political parties for regular party and campaign expenses; seat-based direct public funding to promote women’s representation in Malaysian politics; and indirect public funding through subsidies.
Jeyakumar, who is also the former Sungai Siput MP, claimed that corruptions occur because political parties are forced to get money from the private sector, and this undermines democracy.
“All the political parties have to be on good terms with the business class.
“You must make sure you don’t anger the business people in any way because they are giving you money.
“…they have much more access to you and many more opportunities to advocate their positions.
“So, I would say, the lack of public financing actually undermines democracy in a society,” Jeyakumar said.
Meanwhile, former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam, in his keynote speech, addressed the challenges of political funding – legislative shortcomings; weak oversight; and lack of political will.
Citing cooperation between the current government and opposition, Musa proposed the formation of a non-partisan, representative group of individuals to tackle national issues.
He stressed that this group would differ from the government’s National Operations Council and would be freed from interference by the present government and partisan politicians.
The proposed group would only have a lifespan of two years.
“The idea of the two-year lifespan is to give ample time to deal with the multiple-faceted issues in the country.
“At the end of the two-year period, results of all of the collective work can be presented to Malaysians at large.
“If found overall across the board to be acceptable, Malaysia would certainly have reset herself by then,” Musa said.
By : RAVEENA NAGOTRA – MALAYSIAKINI