"The moderator, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) secretary-general Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz yesterday asked the forum whether Harapan would still wait until it seized federal power before introducing reforms if another scandal on the scale of 1MDB were to occur?" Full stories as follow:-
The opposition need not wait to capture Putrajaya to institute reforms, an analyst said today, but can instead implement a system in the states they govern to reduce instances of corruption.
According to Penang Institute fellow Wong Chin Huat, reforms can begin in opposition-held Selangor and Penang with the introduction of a system to allow political parties to be funded by taxpayers. "State governments have the power to make reforms.
"With its resources, state governments can do many things, including (using) public funds for political parties, because there is nothing in the federal constitution which prevents states from spending money.
"If we repeat every day that we need to wait until we get to Putrajaya before we see reforms, I'm not sure whether the rakyat will be bored or sick of it by then," he said. Wong was one of the panellists at a forum on public funding for political parties held at Institut Darul Ehsan in Shah Alam today, and cited the German political system in which such a system is practised.
Each year, German taxpayers fork out up to €133 million (RM660 million) for political parties that win sufficient votes. Giving an analogy of a cat that is well-fed that does not need to eat fish, Wong said political parties would not need to look for funds elsewhere if they received public funds. He also pointed out that in the present system, influence can be exerted through the size of donations.
"Therefore the rich will influence the country's politics and the government's policies will only favour the rich. "This will make it harder for smaller and new parties to contest," he said. When individuals are asked to fund political parties, he added, it would only be natural that they would expect something in return.
"There will be corruption. It doesn't necessarily mean that this will be through swindling of funds, but there will be conflict of interest," he said. Citing the German model, in which 0.04 percent of the country's federal budget is used to fund political parties, Wong suggested that federal funds be used for elections at the parliamentary level and state funds for state elections.
"Maybe 0.05 percent of the federal budget can be used, while 0.25 percent from the respective state budgets can be utilised (for state elections)," he said. DAP parliamentarian Ong Kian Ming (photo), who was also one of the panellists at today's forum, said the suggestion was something that can be studied at the state level.
He also took the opportunity to respond to academician Edmund Terence Gomez, who claimed that Harapan does not seem to have the intention to make reforms in relation to political funding.
"This is unfair for Harapan, because we have conducted internal dialogues with Gomez, and we have promised him that Harapan will include political reforms as well as reforms in relation to political funding in our manifesto.
" Ong pointed out how the coalition had spoken about the matter during its anti-kleptocracy rally in October, with political financing being limited to political parties as opposed to individual politicians, among other measures.
"This shows that Harapan has the intention and has a comprehensive plan to reform the political institution as well as to introduce reforms in relation to political financing," he said.
The moderator, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) secretary-general Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz, then asked the forum whether Harapan would still wait until it seized federal power before introducing reforms if another scandal on the scale of 1MDB were to occur. In response, Ong said there was nothing Harapan could do at present, as enforcement agencies lie under the federal government.
"If institutions such as the Election Commission, MACC and Attorney-General's Chambers are not reformed, there's nothing we can do. "Like what Wong said, if funds are given to certain political parties, but they don't want to submit their accounts, the state government cannot do anything about it.
“So the conclusion is we have to wait until we're in Putrajaya," he said.
Meanwhile, Harapan chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah believes that there would be less corruption if there were less need for political parties to search for funds during election season.
"For Umno, they will mobilise around 5,000 people for each 222 constituencies and how many need to be paid and given hats, scarves, pocket money and food," said the former Umno leader. "Also, imagine how much could be saved if posters were limited to the operations room."