Delay in political funding Act shows both sides guilty, says economist

(FMT) – The lack of will to enact a political funding Act across the divide confirms that lawmakers from both sides receive political funding from businesses, said an economist.

Edmund Terence Gomez pointed out that before the 14th general election in 2018, opposition parties showed support for political financing and institutional reforms.

However, he said, the situation changed after 2018, with lawmakers unwilling to push for these reforms.

“This shows that businesses are funding both sides now,” he said at a conference titled “Political Financing Act: Current Status, Challenges and the Way Forward” organised by IDEAS and the Malaysian Bar Council.

Gomez said the lack of political will could also be observed through the government’s memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Pakatan Harapan on transformation and political stability signed last year.

He criticised the MoU, saying the pact lacked necessary reforms on political financing and institutional reforms. He said these were the most fundamental issues.

Gomez also expressed frustration with the government for its refusal to include members of the public in effecting necessary reforms.

He said a huge number of NGOs had submitted recommendations covering regulations on political financing, limits on funding and spending and types of funding, among others.

Unfortunately, he said, these key recommendations were often overlooked by the government.

Another panellist, Bait Al-Amanah research director Benedict Weerasena, said all relevant quarters must be realistic in enacting a political financing law and other institutional reforms.

“This includes accepting the diluted version of the bill as a starting point and moving towards the ideal bill in the future.

“Let’s start with the non-negotiable items in the bill first,” he said.

Last month, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption had agreed in principle to a political funding bill.

He said the proposal would be discussed with the Cabinet before further engagement with political parties.