KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 — The Malaysian Bar has reiterated its call for the enactment of political financing laws without further delay.
In a statement, its president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn said the professional body has been working on a draft Bill with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Political Financing in the hopes that this will be realised before the next general election.
She added that such laws were needed to give sufficient powers of oversight, accountability and transparency over political financing and the conduct of elections.
“The tumultuous political landscape that Malaysians have endured in the past few years has made us less tolerant of the dubious practices of those in power.
“What we need now is a strong political will to effectively implement the laws,” said Cheah in a statement released today.
She said that the lack of a legislative framework in Malaysia has created an ecosystem rife with multiple issues that are difficult to curb, such as corruption, cronyism, conflict of interest and abuse of power.
“Recent history and court cases have shown that a political financing mechanism is imperative to comprehensively address issues related to political funding,” she said in reference to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
Cheah said that the disclosure of monies and how it is used must be properly regulated and remain transparent to the public.
“The scandal exposed the unsavoury manner in which political parties can abuse such funds to secure support for elections and is tantamount to the subversion of the democratic process, which can destabilise our political system,” she added.
She pointed out that the Election Offences Act 1954 was outdated, a situation further exacerbated by the lack of effective criminal laws and the Election Commission’s weak enforcement powers.
Currently, political parties are governed by the Registrar of Societies through the Societies Act 1966. However, the Act does not require societies or political parties to reveal their sources of funding.
A National Consultative Committee has been established and it tabled a Political Donation and Expenditure Act in the wake of the 1MDB scandal, but the Bill never materialised.
In 2018, Pakatan Harapan (PH) government attempted to introduce a Political Financing Control Act that would regulate political funding but this too did not come to pass.