• Full details of the Political Donations and Expenditure Act must be known before a decision to support or not can be made

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the 30th of March 2017

    Full details of the Political Donations and Expenditure Act must be known before a decision to support or not can be made

    Yesterday, on the 29th of March, 2017, myself together with my colleagues, Anthony Loke (Seremban), Teresa Kok (Seputeh), Chong Chien Jen (Bandar Kuching), Julian Tan (Stampin), Oscar Ling (Sibu), Jeff Ooi (Jelutong) and Ng Wei Aik (Tanjong) met with Senator Datuk Paul Low, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to discuss the details of the Political Donations and Expenditure Act.

    The recommendations[1] of the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing were published on its website on the 30th of September 2016.[2]

    We expressed our disappointment that this committee chose to only focus on political donations and expenditure without addressing larger issues of reform which are linked to political donations and expenditure including the independence of the Election Commission as well as the office of the Attorney General (AG).

    We also highlighted some of the shortcomings of the recommendations including the proposal to lift all spending limits and not to have a cap on political donations to political parties and individuals. This will skew an already uneven playing field in favour of the Barisan Nasional (BN).

    At the same time, we welcome the following recommendations:

    • The creation of an office of the Controller of Political Donations and Expenditure and the assurance of a transparent and fair process to appoint the Controller
    • The creation of a parliamentary standing committee on political financing to scrutinise the work of the Controller on behalf of Parliament
    • That state funding be provided to support the effective operations of the constituency offices of the elected Members of Parliament and elected State Legislative Assembly members
    • The ban on state owned companies and companies receiving government contracts and concessions from making any political contributions
    • Steps to be taken to criminalise discrimination or victimisation of donors and the creation of a mechanism to enable donors who feel they have been unfairly treated to seek justice

    We informed the Minister that state funding for MPs should include access to constituency development funds which are currently being denied to opposition MPs.

    We also took note that many of the finer details to do with the implementation of the proposed act have not yet been confirmed and is in the process of being ironed out by the technical committee.

    We appreciate the assurance by the Minister that he will keep us informed of any future developments with regards to this proposed bill and that he ‘will not spring any surprises’ on us.

    We will await the full details of the proposed bill before we decide on whether to support the bill or not.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Photo: DAP MPs meeting with Paul Low

    [1] http://transparency.org.my/what-we-do/reforming-political-financing/full-report-from-the-national-consultative-committee-on-political-financing/

    [2] http://politicalfinancing.my/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Media-STATEMENT-JKNMPP-English-final-290916.pdf

  • Abdul Rahman Dahlan’s recent statements show why we cannot expect the BN to implement a fair political financing system

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 24th of October 2016

    Abdul Rahman Dahlan’s recent statements show why we cannot expect the BN to implement a fair political financing system

    The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, is no stranger to making controversial statements in order to propel himself up the ranks of the UMNO leadership. But even I was shocked at his latest tweets where he proposed to blacklist companies with government contracts who support Bersih because he accuses Bersih of having an agenda to illegally topple the government.

    Firstly, it is shocking to see a Minister accuse Bersih of having an agenda to illegally topple the government. None of the initial 8 demands of Bersih which includes calls for institutional and electoral reform calls for the government to be toppled via illegal means. These 8 demands were simplified to 5 main points for the upcoming Bersih 5 rally – clean elections, clean government, the right to dissent, protect parliamentary democracy, save the economy – and none of them calls for the government to be toppled via illegal means.

    In fact, I tweeted a challenge to Abdul Rahman Dahlan (@mpkotabelud) asking him to point to any one statement by a Bersih leader which called for the illegal toppling of the government through the upcoming Bersih 5 rally on the 19th of November, 2016 and he did not respond.

    Secondly, I question the right of the Minister to blacklist companies who support Bersih and ban them from getting government contracts. On what legal grounds is the Minister basing his actions on? Will the Minister target companies who support opposition parties next?

    Thirdly, the actions of the Minister clearly show that the BN has no credibility when it comes to implementing a political financing act that is fair and impartial. If the Minister wants to target companies for supporting Bersih based on spurious and baseless grounds, what is to prevent the BN from selectively discriminating against companies and individuals who support the opposition if this information has to be revealed under a Political Financing Act?

    The bullying and fear mongering tactics of Abdul Rahman Dahlan must be soundly rejected by all Malaysians.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

  • Will the political financing regulations be used selectively against opposition parties and its supporters?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 3rd of October, 2016

    Will the political financing regulations be used selectively against opposition parties and its supporters?

    The recently released report from the Consultative Committee on Political Financing (JKNMPP) has some recommendations which are not without merit. Indeed, some of these recommendations have been supported by the opposition in the past including the recommendation for state-funding to be provided for the operations of constituency offices of elected Members of Parliament and state legislative members regardless of political affiliation. The recommendation to create a parliamentary standing committee on Political Financing merits consideration but needs to be discussed in the larger context of creating a number of parliamentary standing committees. The recommendation for greater transparency in the awarding of Public Private Partnership contracts has been reiterated countless times by opposition Members of Parliament for many years.

    The recommendation that state-owner enterprises of all types, be it at the federal or state or local levels, and all their subsidiaries be banned from making direct, indirect or in-kind contributions to politicians or political parties is long overdue. In fact, this can be done with a directive from the PM or the chief executive of the state, without necessarily involving additional legislation.

    But one cannot also turn a blind eye to some of the obvious shortcomings of some of the recommendations. Notably, the lack of any limits or caps on the amount which can be donated to political parties or to individual politicians and the lack of any spending limits by a political party or individual tilts an already uneven playing field even more to the favour of the ruling coalition, the Barisan Nasional (BN). There were also no recommendations for public disclosure of assets by politicians, especially those holding government positions.

    But the greatest shortcoming of this report is something which is outside the power and scope of work for this committee. There is nothing to prevent the BN from selectively implementing or modifying the recommendations of the committee in such a way as to enhance its own powers and put greater pressure on opposition parties and its supporters.

    For example, under the proposed Political Donation and Expenditure Act (PDEA), a very powerful “Office of the Controller of Political Donations and Expenditure” will be created. Political parties and politicians must report their political donations to this Controller who will have powers to audit the accounts. In addition, this Controller also has the power to confiscate donations if they are suspected to be from ‘dubious’ sources. We have seen how institutions which are supposed to be independent have been used to benefit the BN. The Elections Commission is the most important example and we have proof of this in the recently proposed 2016 delimitation exercise. We have no assurances that when the pressure in put on this Controller, he or she will not buckle to the needs of the BN leadership.

    Worse still, the proposed PDEA may be modify the recommendations of the JKNMPP by allowing the Controller to ban political parties from taking place in elections because of the non-compliance of one branch in the party with regards to political financing disclosure. A compliant Controller may then be pressured to use his or her power to target opposition political parties.

    Even though the JKNMPP recommends that steps should be taken to criminalise discrimination or victimisation of donors by introducing provisions in existing anti-discrimination laws or the introduction of a complete new law, it would not be surprising if this recommendation is totally ignored by the BN.

    We have too many examples of how laws which are supposed to ‘good’ for democracy and political activity be abused by the BN government. The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 which was supposed to strengthen the right of assembly in the country, according to the establishment, ended up being used by the current regime to charge NGO activists like Bersih’s Maria Chin and Jannie Lasimbang as well as opposition politicians such as Nik Nazmi and Chong Chien Jen (among many others). Who is to say that this PDEA will not be abused in a similar manner?

    While there are merits in some of the recommendations proposed by the JKNMPP, the current political climate makes it very difficult for opposition parties and politicians to trust that the BN government will NOT implement or modify these recommendations in a selective and biased manner that is in its favour and which is detrimental to opposition parties and the practice of democracy here in Malaysia.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

  • Ambassador at large Bilahari Kausikan should interpret political developments in Malaysia as part of a larger worldwide trend of regime change among dominant party regimes

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 8th of October, 2015

    Ambassador at large Bilahari Kausikan should interpret political developments in Malaysia as part of a larger worldwide trend of regime change among dominant party regimes

    In his op-ed entitled “Singapore is not an Island”,[1] Bilahari Kausikan, Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large and R Nathan fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, was quick to interpret the current political struggle in Malaysia as one that pitted the Muslims against the non-Muslims and the Malays against the non-Malays, specifically the Chinese.

    I was surprised by his choice to interpret the political events in Malaysia through this narrow lens, especially given his diplomatic experience, rather than to examine the political forces in Malaysia as part of a larger global trend where regimes that were once seen as impregnable, were brought down through a peaceful electoral route. And it is this route which the opposition forces in Malaysia are committed to.

    Malaysia’s Barison Nasional (BN) coalition is currently the longest ruling government via popular elections in contemporary political history. But it is not the longest. The Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI ruled Mexico unchallenged from 1929 to 2000 with regular elections at the presidential, gubernatorial, legislative and municipality levels. It dominated state institutions, the legislature and every state governorship and its rule was seemingly unchallengeable. But in the 2000 presidential elections, the PRI candidate, Franciso Labastida Ochoa, lost to PAN’s Vicente Fox Quesada, a former Coca-Cola executive and governor of Guanajuato, in a three horse race.

    In 2000, the uninterrupted rule of the Kuomintang (KMT) party in Taiwan was also ended with the victory of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP’s) Chen Shui Bian, also in a three horse race.

    More recently, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had dominated post-war politics in Japan for more than half a decade, lost the 2009 general elections to the Democratic Party of Japan (DP).

    Other less well known dominant party regimes that have lost power via the electoral route include the Socialist Party in Senegal (1960 to 2000) and the Colorado Party in Uruguay (1947 to 2008).

    What did these regimes have in common? Many years of political dominance had led to ever increasing amounts of unchecked corruption. Inter elite splits within the ruling coalition had slowly weakened them over time. And the opposition had consolidated and / or strengthened over time in order to pool their forces to defeat the long ruling regime.

    This is the context in which Malaysia is finding itself today. Given Malaysia’s electoral system i.e. a parliamentary rather than a presidential system, the opposition cannot count on winning power via elite splits in a presidential race. Furthermore, in a grossly malapportioned electoral system, the only way in which the opposition can win a majority of seats is by winning at least some of the semi-urban and rural seats on top of the urban seats it overwhelmingly won in the 2013 general elections. And given that these semi-urban and rural seats are predominantly Malay or Bumiputera (in Sabah and Sarawak), this would mean that the opposition would have to win a larger % of the Malay and Bumiputera vote. No one in the opposition is deluded in thinking that we can win a majority of seats just by winning an overwhelming majority of non-Malay and especially Chinese votes. Nor are we deluding our supporters into thinking this.

    Indeed, Ambassador Kausikan should be reminded that 40 Bumiputera (39 Malays and 1 Kadazan) opposition Members of Parliament were voted into office in the 2013 general elections compared with just 32 Malay MPs in the 1999 general elections which saw PAS emerging as the largest opposition party.

    What we want to do, in fact, what we HAVE to do, is to build a broad-based coalition which can win at last 60% of the popular vote (which would mean winning a significant percentage of the Malay and Bumiputera vote). We can do this not just by highlighting the excesses in terms of corruption and abuse of power by the ruling coalition, the rise in the cost of living due to the ham fisted implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the pathetic attempt by the ruling coalition to raise inter-ethnic tensions but also by presenting a set of clear policy alternatives on how a new opposition coalition can govern better compared to the ruling regime.

    Ambassador Kausikan is right to say that Singapore has “no choice but to work with whatever system or leader emerges in Malaysia.” But one cannot help but wonder if his fears about a possible transition in power in Malaysia, especially one that is peaceful and well-ordered, is driven more by his fears of such a possibility in Singapore in the distant but foreseeable future than for his concern of what might happen in Malaysia?

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/singapore-is-not-an-island

  • Statement of Clarification – Pakatan Harapan and PSM

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, and Khalid Samad, MP for Shah Alam on the 24th of September, 2015

    Statement of Clarification – Pakatan Harapan and PSM

    We refer to Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s (PSM) statement issued today, the 24th of September, 2015, stating that we had lied about the reason why PSM was not invited to the meeting on Tuesday, 22nd of September, 2015 involving PKR, DAP, Amanah and certain NGO leaders. The reason we were told at the meeting by PKR President and Opposition Leader, Dr. Wan Azizah, on why PSM were not invited was because they were opposed to Article 153 in the Federal Constitution concerning the special position of the Malays and the Bumiputeras in Sabah and Sarawak. Our statement to the press was to inform them of what we were told at this meeting by Dr. Wan Azizah.

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