Bersih welcomes placing EC, MACC and Suhakam under Parliament

Bersih 2.0 says in order for this massive reform to take root and to be institutionalised, the respective enabling legislation of these institutions must be amended to reflect the changes.

PETALING JAYA: The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) has applauded the Pakatan Harapan government for placing important bodies under Parliament’s jurisdiction.

In a statement today, it hailed the reshuffling of the Prime Minister’s Department by placing the Election Commission (EC), the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Audit Department under Parliament.

“This is indeed a crucial step towards institutional reform by making them truly independent and reporting directly to Parliament.

“However, merely changing the placement of these institutions is not sufficient.

“In order for this massive reform to take root and to be institutionalised, the respective enabling legislation of these institutions must be amended to reflect such changes.”

It said the enabling legislation of these institutions should have clear provisions that they report directly to Parliament, without having to go through the Prime Minister’s Department for vetting or approval.

“As of now, there is no provision in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 or the Election Commission Act 1954 that states the line of accountability of these two institutions.

“The reports of these institutions should be debated and approved, and not merely presented to Parliament, as is the case for Suhakam.”

Bersih said the legal amendments should also provide for the budget of these institutions to come under that of Parliament instead of the budget of the Prime Minister’s Department.

“The fiscal independence of these institutions, from the executive branch, is crucial to ensure politically-motivated incidents, such as the budget of Suhakam being cut by half by the executive branch under the Barisan Nasional regime, can be prevented in future.

“The appointments of members of these institutions should also be revamped to incorporate a more transparent, accountable and participatory process by the public.

“This would ensure the best candidates are chosen for the job.”

These independent institutions should be given the power to recruit, suspend or sack their own staff, it added.

The election reform group warned that without institutionalising these changes in law, this change of placement of the institutions under Parliament, based on an administrative order, can be reversed at any time.

Bersih 2.0 urged all MPs to support such reforms during parliamentary debates to strengthen democracy.

It was earlier reported that 90 agencies and departments under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department would be overhauled to reduce the number to 26.

Forty entities will be redesignated to other ministries, while 10, including 19 offices and task forces, will be abolished.

Nine have been given the green light to operate as independent entities, reporting directly to Parliament while five other agencies have been merged.

Besides MACC, EC, Suhakam and the National Audit Department, the others coming under the purview of Parliament include the Public Service Commission, Edu­cation Service Commission and the Judicial Appointments Com­mission.