Political funding reforms get thumbs up from Umno, BN

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) have given the thumbs up to the proposed political funding reforms, suggested by the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing.

This was announced by Prime Minister Najib Razak who told a press conference at the Putra World Center here today that the reforms were something that the government had long fought for.

However, the committee’s 32 recommendations are still subject to further deliberation and consensus of all political parties, including those from the Opposition.

“We need new political financing laws that are more transparent and which can be monitored by objective and neutral parties.

“On principle, we agree to support the proposal for reforms but the methods need to be agreed upon by both sides.

“It’s not fair if the new law only applies to BN. It has to be practised by all political parties,” he said after chairing the monthly Umno Supreme Council meeting.

The consultative committee was formed by Najib last year and is headed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Paul Low Seng Kuan.

Low had this morning published the committee’s recommendations, which include the requirement for disclosure of contributions exceeding RM3,000, a ban on foreign donations and the setting up of designated accounts for political funds.

Umno Information Chief Annuar Musa, when approached by reporters, said it was high time that a new law on political financing was introduced, especially as the absence of one had made it difficult to determine which practices were right and wrong.

“I hope other political parties will agree to it as Umno and BN have decided that we want such laws to ensure the financing of campaigns during general elections can be more transparent and regulated.”

When asked as to the proposal to ban foreign political funding, Annuar said he personally did not agree with it.

This is because the emphasis should be on transparency and accountability, he added.

“At its core, unregulated foreign funding can see the country’s internal politics interfered with negatively.

“But there may be some methods that we can put in place so we can control them.

“The important thing is if the source has been disclosed. Then, as long as the source is legitimate, even if from outside the country, there should be no problem.

“It’s about the legitimacy of the source, not about whether it’s from inside or outside the country.”

Umno Supreme Council member Abdul Rahman Dahlan also supported the proposed reforms, especially on the abolition of the cap on election campaign expenditure, which he said was “impractical and irrelevant”.

“The current threshold is so low that political parties almost always spend more than the limits.”

He then spoke about the allegations of corruption and money politics during elections, which he said was not only about money.

“’Over-promising’ to the electorate can also be a form of corruption. The Opposition is notoriously known for this.

“They like to promise the moon and the stars without regard to the adverse consequences to the economy and the future of the nation. Who is going to monitor that?

“For years, the Opposition has been harping on foreign donations.

“When the government is taking steps to address the issue, you have three ‘political monkeys’ jumping up and down giving it the thumbs down.”

He was apparently referring to DAP MP Anthony Loke, PKR’s Rafizi Ramli and Parti Amanah Negara’s Khalid Samad who told Malaysiakini that they don’t support the proposed reforms.