It must first be asked why is it that when someone donates to the opposition, they are most careful not to be seen or connected to it, even when the donation is meant to be used for the rakyat?
The issue of political funding is cropping up again, with the National Consultative Committee on Political Funding soon to suggest their proposals on regulating funding for political purposes.
PKR Vice President and Batu MP Tian Chua says that the repressive political culture has made people not willing to reveal names of donors of political parties, especially when they donate to the opposition.
“Instead, you see that people do not mind carving their name on stones when donating to temples,” says Tian.
This issue of political funding first came up when the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak explained that the RM2.6 billion amount mentioned in the 1MDB scandal in his personal account was given by those who were funding Umno. His brother Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, CIMB Group chairman, then said that he as a banker had disbursed it as instructed to the party people.
With the opposition then questioning about the funding of Umno, the focus soon shifted to the opposition, as Barisan Nasional (BN) parties retaliating and started to question where the opposition got their funding from.
The rakyat then were left in a daze wondering why something which has been done for so many years and never posed any problem to anyone has suddenly become a problem, for how are political parties to run if there was no funding?
Which businessmen in their right mind would openly tell the people that they were funding political parties?
Also, in Malaysia, although we are more open now as to who we support in elections, the act of actually donating to a political party is not to be discussed openly.
The opposition says that as the committee on political funding was initiated by the government, which is run by the ruling coalition, it is obvious that they are actually out to find out who is actually funding the opposition and then pounce on them, for the biggest funders are the most discreet in any political party.
Tian says that our biggest problem is not so much political funding, rather political fund linked to procurement.
“If we only look at political funding, then we miss the real picture, I mean the government gives money to parties through projects. The focus of reform should be transparency and accountability in tender procedures. To scrutinise political funding is chasing the shadows, though shadow can also give indication of the problems,” says Tian.
He also points out that in telling the political parties to disclose their funders or to cut off political funding is not fair in the present political field of Malaysia, where the government gives out not only projects but allocations for constituents to MPs and Aduns of the ruling parties, but not to the opposition ones.
This forces opposition’s elected representatives to find their own sources to help out their constituents, and many of those who help out do so on the condition of anonymity, for fear that their businesses and projects with the government would be affected should they be known to help the opposition.
Also, the machineries of the government is fully not available to the opposition and this means that to have their own means of communicating to the public or running their campaigns, the opposition needs donors.
While Tian is for transparency, he says that political parties should not be forced to disclose their funding.
“There must be legislative measures. Disclosure cannot be voluntary,” says Tian.
He also says that if we were indeed to have a regulatory body on political funding, it should be in the Malaysian political context.
Until the democratic principles are in place, such as transparency in government allocations and funding, as well as a level playing field for the opposition, the issue of regulating political funding should not be raised at all, says the opposition.
Zakiah Koya@The Heat Malaysia Online