Money politics pervasive, admits minister

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KUALA LUMPUR: Money politics is quite pervasive in Malaysia, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Paul Low said.

Low, the chairman of the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing, said: “Because it’s unregulated, money politics becomes quite pervasive, both in terms of election as well as party politics and you hear of so many abuses.

“When money becomes the pervasive factor in determining who gets elected and who (will) not get elected, then you might not get the right candidate.”

That was the reason, he told Bloomberg in an interview, the government had set up a committee to recommend regulations to govern political funding.

He said: “The laws that are in existence in governing political activities in the area of expenditure and financing are very lax.”

Low’s committee has come up with recommendations on political funding, which includes the tabling of the Political Donations and Expenditure Act.

One of the major recommendations is that foreign donations for political purposes be banned.

“Straight away, foreign funds are not allowed,” Low told Bloomberg.

Low said if the committee’s recommendations were accepted then government-linked corporations, and beneficiaries of government contracts, would be barred from making campaign contributions and politicians would be required to deposit all donations in a special account.

Political parties and politicians would have to submit detailed expenditure reports to an independent controller.

Low admitted that if such rules had been in place a few years earlier, it would have prevented the political furore surrounding past donations to Prime Minister Najib Razak

Najib has said he received a “personal contribution” of RM2.6 billion from the Saudi Arabian royal family in his bank accounts before the 2013 general election. He has since been cleared by Malaysian investigators of any wrongdoing.

Najib’s press secretary Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad told Bloomberg in an e-mail that Najib had first proposed detailed reforms to political funding in 2010, shortly after taking office, but that the changes had been blocked by the opposition.

The head of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, told Bloomberg:

“The status of the report is very straightforward: it depends on whether the prime minister wants to do it or not.” He was one of those in Low’s committee. – FMT

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