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