EC, prove independence and probe WSJ report

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MP SPEAKS The Wall Street Journal ( WSJ ) has exposed the alleged use of 1MDB in the prime minister’s campaign last 13th general election. If true, it must be investigated as to how much the stinking abuse of the country’s coffers by irresponsible persons in government office.

Just yesterday, WSJ unearthed links which originated from 1MDB’s purchase of power assets from Genting Group in 2012? - for a whopping five times more than its worth - to Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia (YR1M).

Genting allegedly donated part of the earnings to Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia (YR1M), a foundation controlled by Najib Abdul Razak in the ostensible pursuit of ‘benefiting Malaysians from all walks of life’. WSJ further stated that YR1M, a charitable foundation chaired by the PM, was further responsible for a slew of charity projects instrumental to PM Najib’s campaign during the last GE.

“A few months after the sale, a unit of Genting called Genting Plantations Bhd made a donation of about US$10 million to a Najib-linked charity, according to a spokesperson for Genting Plantations,” according to the report.

“Though (Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia was) set up to help underprivileged Malaysians through education and sport, [the article states that] this charity soon got involved in spending that appeared designed to help Najib retain power in the May 2013 election?”

WSJ also said in another report that, “1MDB itself was active in Penang before the election. The fund purchased land in the state days before the voting. Mr Najib, campaigning in Penang, promised to build low-cost housing on the land.”

If the past is any measure, Malaysians would be forced to keep waiting with bated breath for investigations on the allegations made by WSJ .

Based on the seriousness of these allegations by WSJ, the Election Commission (EC) would lend credence to its independence if it moved to investigate the same and to refer PM Najib under Section 10 (a), Election Offences Act 1954; or any section under the said Act.

Should the EC chair come out with further excuses justifying 1MDB linked slush funds for election campaigning, rather than give us an independent report based on a mature, uninfluenced and thorough investigation, then we might as well ask the EC to officially join the BN coalition.

Previously, the EC has said that Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ( photo ) pledge to deny Permatang Pauh development funds if Barisan Nasional (BN) loses the by-election was not a form of bribery as there was the statement was not indication of Ismail Sabri’s intention to sway voters to support the ruling coalition.

EC’s chairperson Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said Ismail Sabri’s remarks would only be considered an offence under Section 10 of the 1954 Election Act if there is proof to show that his remarks had induced Permatang Pauh folk to vote for BN.

Perceived as being abused

However, there is no defending or avoiding global disapproval when a government-backed mammoth financial investment fund such as the 1MDB, which has racked? up to US$11 billion debt, is perceived as being abused by the prime minister as his private slush kitty election fund - if the allegations are proven to be true.

A cursory look at YR1M hardly brings out meaningful clarity on its actual expenditure . In fact, many would be left wondering whether the iM Sarawak Project, under YR1M is part of the effort in retaining BN's lifeline and foothold in Sarawak.

To avoid any doubts, Prime Minister Najib must disclose the financial transactions of YR1M, including and not limited to sources of funds, and where these funds are being channelled to.

I also believe that this revelation warrants an investigation against Barisan Nasional to find out whether they are in breach of the Election Offences Act. Should they be found to be liable, the people responsible should be brought to face justice - and the buck certainly stops with YR1M's chairperson, PM Najib.

Additionally Malaysia must immediately relook election financing reforms; and the need to create a law to regulate financing by political parties. However, without an independent Election Commission, along with its sister authorities - such a law could very well be used to stifle funding for the opposition and further victimise any dissent.

Independent authorities, including the Election Commission will ensure we put a stop to any prime minister running rampant in establishing further charitable organisations bent on ‘helping Malaysians from all walks of life’ aka guises to legalise his slush funds.

In the United Kingdom, parties have to record the donations and loans they receive, check they are from a permissible source, and report larger donations and loans to the Electoral Commission. In Great Britain, the Electoral Commission publishes these donation and loan reports on their online database to ensure there is transparency about the funding for parties.

The highest legislative body of this country had in 2012 approved 22 recommendations for the EC to act on. The majority in Malaysia’s Parliament voted in favour for these recommendations - under the  Select Committee on Electoral Reform. Unfortunately since then, what we have is more of the same line up of EC’s top echelon; and further adduced evidence and allegations of money politics - but no action.

Will the prime minister now lend his weight to add further mockery of our institutions and governance or would he lend his weight to ensure that Justice is seen to be done. Regardless of his move and answers, Malaysians must not allow for a global-scale mockery of government business.

( Malaysiakini has contacted all parties for comment.)


NURUL IZZAH ANWAR is Lembah Pantai Member of Parliament, and vice-president and elections director of PKR.

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