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LETTER FROM THE RAKYAT:

WITH more and more Malaysians asking how a RM2.6 billion donation from a certain “brotherly” nation can be used for political funding, perhaps it is time we look at what are the regulations and limitations set by political parties themselves in order to curb these supposed corrupt practices.

After all, if the government wants Malaysians to balk at Bersih over accusations of receiving foreign funding since 2012, I am sure the same should apply to all political parties as well, government or otherwise.

So let us start with this question: does any Malaysia political party prohibit receiving donations of a sort through its constitution?

Plus, if political parties themselves wanted to curb such an issue rising in their ranks, they would have had their central committees and supreme councils make it part of their own constitutions, right?

Before we continue, allow me a disclaimer. I am not a member of any political party, and I am not a lawyer. So, what is written here is a layman’s reading of each party’s founding laws, just so we are clear.

Let us start with Umno (http://www.umno-online.my/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/perlembagaan-umno.pdf) and PKR (http://keadilanrakyat.ninjatech.my/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Perlembagaan-Parti-New-A5.pdf) .

In the Malay nationalist party constitution, items 24 through 28 speak of the financials, asset management and auditing. Item 24 speaks of source of income, which states:

“Umno’s finances are received from: 1) registration and membership fees, 2) donations and 3) other initiatives at all levels approved by the Supreme Council.”

This is comparable to PKR’s constitution, Part 5 Item 13, which speaks of the same. However, there is a slight difference. It states:

“The party’s finances are received from: 1) membership fees, 2) donations from party members and 3) Other income from all levels that are not against the principles and rules of the party.”

In other words, Umno could have taken in the “donation” into its own coffers without a problem, but if the donation had been made to PKR, the party would have had to go through one of its members to get past the rules.

Meanwhile, DAP’s (http://dl.dapmalaysia.org/repository/DAPMalaysia_constitution_bm_v21Feb2012.pdf) constitution personally reads very much like a multi-level marketing (MLM) version of a political party.

Item 25 of the party’s constitution, detailing funding and branch accounts, can be summarised as such.

All funds collected at all levels belong to the party. All branch treasurers must submit registration fee funds to the central treasurer after deducting a certain amount for itself.

The DAP also allows donations to be collected from “members and supporters”, without any clarification so I guess they could also accept cash from “brotherly” nations if it happened.

Money collected from donations by branches must also be submitted to the central treasurer after a certain percentage is deducted to be kept in the branch, as determined by the central committee.

However, it is laudable that the DAP branches can only spend up to RM400 without approval from the branch level central committee.

Meanwhile, item 137 of the MCA constitution (http://www.mca.org.my/en/files/2013/11/MCA-Party-Constitution.pdf) states its sources of income as subscriptions, donations or such other sources as may be approved by central committee from time to time.

Meanwhile, PAS (http://perlembagaan-pas.blogspot.com/2009/05/bab-yang-kesebelas-kewangan-dan.html) allows incomes from registration fees, annual membership fees, donations and wakaf, as well as other sources of income, which are halal and legal according to Malaysian law and Islamic teachings.

Would the last part by itself stop the “brotherly” donation from taking place in PAS if it followed its constitution to the letter?

I have no idea. I guess as long as the donation is syariah-compliant, it is all acceptable.

Meanwhile, PSM (http://partisosialis.org/sites/default/files/perlembagaan-psm.pdf) has no clauses limiting its sources of income, but the amount of what is listed Item 15 of their constitution limits the amount of cash their treasurers can handle at a time with extremely strict guidelines.

So in other words, not a single political party in Malaysia truly stops foreign nations, billionaires or even companies from donating to them under the guise of “supporters”, through a third party or even directly.

Yes, of course not all of them have donors willing to fork out RM2.6 billion at one go. But the problem is larger than that.

The problem is that no political party bans outside funding in the form of donations, or even puts a ceiling on the amount acceptable from a nation, a single individual or even a company.

But if we look at foreign politics, the same applies to the Labour and Conservative parties in the UK, and even the Democratic and Republic party in the United States. None of them have any detailing on funding in their respective constitutions.

Instead, the limitations on accepting funds are all done on a federal level. In the UK, they have the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000. In the US, the guidelines are set by the Federal Elections Commission.

The Prime Minister is now trying to do the same by announcing the formation of a national consultative committee on political financing hopefully to do something similar.

The problem, however, is that nobody trusts him or even the minister put in charge of it, Paul Low.

But an even larger problem is that while the government has invited the Bar Council and all political parties to take part in it, they have left out the largest critics that should be the loudest voice at the table — the civil stakeholders such as Bersih and C4.

If the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are true in their pursuit to make elections financially fair and since no political party by itself is looking at self-regulating “donations”, it is time for the NGOs to all step in and take part, push to be part of such a council.

And honestly, while there are those invited to participate who have rejected this idea, which to me personally is a very stupid move.

After all, with the Sarawak state election coming up in 2016 and another general election on the way in 2018, would you prefer yet another donation from a brotherly nation happening again?

HAFIDZ BAHAROM

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