An all-party parliamentary group on political financing was set up on 20 April – something that was long overdue.
But one wonders which aspect of ‘political financing’ it is mandated to look into.
Will the group consider how much money is collected from whom and how much is spent on campaigning during the official campaign period?
Will the group consider the bundles of cash and other goodies distributed to voters by the candidates and their parties?
Or will it just cover things like the printing of posters and banners, the putting up of billboards and newspaper advertisements?
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What about political financing of another kind – the executive rewarding MPs on its side with handsome ‘allocations’ while punishing and blackmailing those on the opposite side?
Since there is no law relating to such allocations, where does the executive get the authority to hand out the allocations in the first place? Isn’t doing so then an illegal act done at the whims and fancies of the executive?
Neither the cabinet nor Parliament can act beyond the powers given to them by the law. That parliamentarians are lawmakers does not give them any right to make laws of their own without going through the proper law-making process.
It is well known that the illegal practice of rewarding ruling coalition MPs while punishing and blackmailing those on the other side has been in place for as long as elections have been going on.
Before the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the government and Pakatan Harapan, the executive showed its ‘generosity’ by giving a token allocation of RM100,000 to opposition MPs.
In contrast, government MPs were each given an allocation of RM3.5m (with an extra RM0.5m for those in East Malaysia) plus RM300,000 each for their service centres.
The opposition MPs got nothing for their service centres. Where is the democratic justice and fairness?
The purpose of this discrimination was clear: to twist the arms of the opposition MPs to change their stand and look at the benefits of being on the government side.
This must be one strong reason for some of them to turn into ‘frogs’ and jump across the floor (defect). The defectors justify this move as necessary for them to get the allocations to serve their constituents. Of course, they can – if they so wish – enjoy other benefits like business opportunities.
There are two ways to make things fair, as every voter has the same rights and responsibilities, whether he or she supports the ruling or opposition parties.
First, if opposition MPs are denied the same treatment as government MPs, then taxpayers in opposition constituencies should be exempted from paying taxes.
The other way is to treat all citizens the same and not divide them into classes or castes where one is higher than the other, or where one is anak (a child) and the other is anak tiri (a stepchild).
The parliamentary working group should, first – even if not mandated to do so – take it upon itself to address this serious discrimination in political financing that amounts to punishing and blackmailing voters who did not vote for the parties in government.
Second, the act of handing out allocations out of public funds is not authorised by any law; this must be regulated.
I propose that amendments be made to the existing Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act 1980 by including a new section (or part) and renaming it the Members of Parliament (Constituency Allocations and Remuneration) Act 1980.
The amendments should be tabled at the next sitting of Parliament, ie at the same time that the anti-defections bill and, hopefully, the political financing bill will be tabled.
The expanded act should remove all discrimination and spell out procedures for the disbursement of allocations.
Payments should not be given to the MPs to be handled by them. MPs should only be allowed to make requests for minor projects or to approve grants to societies or associations for the welfare of the residents in their constituencies.
The making of payments could be done through district officers, who must ensure proper accountability and no leakages.
The discrimination and blackmailing of voters – coercing them to vote for certain parties and candidates – must stop.
All citizens are equal under the Constitution. The executive cannot disrespect the Constitution by discriminating between them.
All MPs must be given the same allocations, just like they are paid the same remuneration under the law.