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Many countries accept lobbying, says Reezal Merican

 | May 28, 2017

Deputy foreign minister says he is in favour of lobbying if it is compatible with the democratic practices in Malaysia.


PETALING JAYA: What is lobbying and how does it work? These types of questions are now being frequently asked after the Malaysian government recently denied involvement with Healy Baumgardner-Nardone, a former aide to US President Donald Trump, who is a lobbyist in the United States.

Lobbying started in the early 1940s in the United States, where the practice was to influence or persuade public officials to take certain desired actions.

Over the years, the general process of lobbying is still the same but it has grown into a big business. It is now the norm in western countries and is gradually being cultivated in Asian countries

Some countries accept lobbying as a democratic right that helps inform the government with valuable insights and data, also allowing citizens and interest groups to present their views on public decisions.

There are, however, regulations and codes implemented by countries that practise lobbying as lobbying can sometimes lead to unfair advantages and risks in the public’s interest.

Deputy Foreign Minister Reezal Merican said it should be noted that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) considers lobbying as a democratic right.

“As far as I am concerned, I am in favour of frank discussions and exchanges of views, as far as it is compatible with the democracy we practise in Malaysia,” Reezal told FMT.

The Kepala Batas MP said some business groups lobby for their positions to be reflected in international negotiations, such as in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), the palm oil sector and labour agreements.

Reezal said that lobbying is quite common as some NGOs also lobby on issues as diverse as human rights, education, and social welfare.

He notes that some NGOs have declared that they have received funding from foreign governments to promote issues of shared interests.

“Should this be considered as lobbying in Malaysia by other countries?

“So I believe one should take a more comprehensive and holistic look at how lobbying is practised in Malaysia.”

However, Reezal said that although some countries allow the involvement of lobbying firms in the political process, Malaysia does not allow it.

He added that the Malaysian government has its own institutionalised form of seeking views from the public and interested parties.

“Notable examples include the budget dialogues and industry dialogues. At the same time, the TN50 (Transformasi Nasional 2050) meetings are the latest innovative means of gathering views.

“This shows the seriousness of the government in adopting a bottom-up approach to policy formulation.”

Reezal said he had nothing to add to the recent reports alleging Malaysia’s appointment of Godfrey Group Ltd, the 45 Group or Healy Baumgardner-Nardone, stating that the government has issued a clear statement.

FMT had earlier reported that Putrajaya had dismissed reports that it hired the US firm to lobby on its behalf.

“Contrary to recent media reports and a registration statement, neither the Prime Minister’s Office or the government of Malaysia has instructed, appointed or contracted in any form with the Godfrey Group Ltd, The 45 Group or Healy Baumgardner-Nardone,” it said in a statement issued by Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, press secretary to Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The government was responding to a report in The Daily Beast which claimed 45 Group received a cheque for US$250,000 (RM1.07 million) on May 9 from a Malaysian company called Godfrey Group Ltd.

The report noted that there were two issues that the Malaysian government needed resolving in the US: the charge that it engaged in unfair trade practices and Najib being linked to the 1MDB scandal.

The 45 Group is headed by Healy Baumgardner-Nardone.

A check with a Johor Bahru address given for Godfrey Group leads to a tyre shop, FMT reported.

Putrajaya denies hiring US firm to lobby Washington

JB address in US lobbyist’s filing leads to tyre shop


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