MACC, election panel must answer on money politics

    Josie Fernandez
    Jul 22, 2013

    COMMENT At the launch of a book on Reforming Political Financing in Malaysia in 2010, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Abu Kasim Mohamed said, “Political corruption is the mother of all corruption. The MACC Act 2009 is clear about the offence of using public office for any form of gratification.”

    And for Wednesday’s Kuala Besut by-election in Terengganu, PAS has circulated a list of projects announced by the BN, which include RM343,000 upgrade to Masjid Haji Ishal in Kampung Dengir and the construction of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Alor Peroi, Tok Saboh, which will cost RM28 million.

    PAS has claimed that rival BN is pouring cash on the constituency in a bid to cover up the weaknesses of its candidate, Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Abdul Rahman.

    The claims of PAS on the pouring of cash and announcement of projects worth millions of rinngit for the Kuala Besut constituency during this by-election period surely requires an investigation by the MACC, which claims to be independent.

    PAS is right in asking BN to declare the sources of the money being poured into the small fishing town of Kuala Besut during the by-election campaign period. The Election Commission (EC) should be in the forefront raising this question, not PAS.

    It is the responsibility of the EC to act on the use of money in elections. It is funded by taxpayers’ money and entrusted with the role of running free and fair elections, without bribery and use of money to garner votes.

    For too long, the Election Commission has claimed that it is unable to act on the use of money, gifts and projects to garner votes during elections in the country. The EC continues to claim that it is powerless to do anything about widespread vote buying under the current Election Offences Act.

    EC only sees the tip, MACC nothing

    Yes, election expenses are like an iceberg – only the tip is visible. The EC for too long has been seeing only the tip of widespread use of money by the BN in general elections and by-elections. The EC has left the investigation of the widespread use of money by the BN to entice voters in elections to the ordinary citizens.

    Considering the cost and time required to investigate the sources of funding for vote buying and suspicion of fraud, it would be too burdensome for the Malaysian public to be involved in such an exercise. It is the EC that has the powers and the resources to act on the widespread use of money by the BN in elections in Malaysia.

    However, the EC continues to watch only the tip of the iceberg of political financing in this country and with the assistance of the MACC, ensures the iceberg will not melt. As such, the EC is only an election management office, not a commission.

    Malaysians are therefore right in calling for the members of the EC to resign.

    As Malaysia’s independent anti-corruption agency, the MACC sees nothing. That the monetisation of politics is a widespread phenomenon in Malaysia has been acknowledged by the MACC. But its interest in addressing bribery and fraud in elections in this country remain an expressed interest, without action. What happened to the investigations by MACC of the RM40 million that Sabah Umno received from a businessman?

    The MACC is in no hurry to reform the monetisation of politics in this country. It needs to build its capacity in forensic accounting and tracing the money trail of opposition political parties.

    To be fair, the MACC has admitted that the anti-corruption legislation needs more bite to act against campaign financing and vote buying. The MACC cannot distinguish between development aid during election campaigns and during implementation of projects in non-election periods. Where there is abuse of power, the MACC has been mulling.

    Strong non-partisan civil society needed

    Only a strong civil society can bring about change, by mobilising public support for political reforms in this country. Prof Yoon Jongbin of the Myongi University in South Korea said at a meeting in Petaling Jaya on Feb 8, 2010: “It can be argued that civil society has been playing a significant role in leading Korean elections to be clean and fair.”

    The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) has since 2007 been calling for free and fair elections in Malaysia. One of the reforms it proposed in the memorandum submitted to the Yang di-pertuan Agong calls for transparency of election campaign financing to eliminate corrupt practices.

    Seven years on, the people’s movement for free and fair elections remains a struggle. The reforms needed for free and fair elections are being stalled by the BN, the party in power, and supported by the so-called independent agencies, MACC and the EC.

    Unfortunately, there are also so-called civil society organisations in Malaysia that have been co-opted and are partisan and still believe in engaging with government on reforms for free and fair elections in the country. A divided civil society weakens the advocacy for electoral reforms in this country.

    It is critical that the position of Bersih is not compromised. NGOs too close to the government are likely to be used to cover up money politics and electoral fraud.

    Civil society groups need to support a voters revolution, like the June 1987 democratic movement in South Korea that led to popular mobilisation and brought down authoritarianism in that country.

    Civil society in Malaysia needs to be mobilised to ensure the restructuring of the MACC and the EC to enable them to initiate the melting of the iceberg – money politics in this country and not provide safety nets for those caught in the melting waters of fraud, bribery and money.


    JOSIE FERNANDEZ is an anti-corruption and environmental activist and an Asian Public Intellectual Fellow.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Monday, 22 July 2013 - 8:48 pm

    MACC, EC, AG etc all part of UMNO’s lobodomized (of human decency) pitbull team could not give a hoot about answering anything. If they do is merely to frustrate their targets and critics.

    Why bother?

  2. #2 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Monday, 22 July 2013 - 9:01 pm

    di dunia ali,isa,musa,kj dan rakan rakan umno baru a lepas ; diakhirat depa kena jawab denganNya

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