Malaysiakini NEWS

Changing the way politics is funded

Terence Gomez
Published:  |  Modified:

KINIBIZ As the controversy surrounding 1MDB unfolds with numerous unexpected turns, one of Umno’s key spokespersons, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, has written a lengthy letter to enlighten Malaysians about what he sees as the core problem at hand: the mode of financing of politics and the urgent need to reform it.

Abdul Rahman’s primary intent in this letter is to show how opposition parties had derailed the requisite reforms that Najib Abdul Razak had endeavoured to introduce soon after he became prime minister. Interestingly, in an apparent attempt to discredit former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Abdul Rahman confirmed Umno’s longstanding practice of accumulating funds in a secret account, held by the party president.

With this disclosure, two questions arise: first, was the money in this secret account deployed during the last general election, thereby violating election laws?

Second, by raising this point about the financing of politics and Umno’s secret account, is Rahman suggesting that since Najib could not reform the grossly inadequate regulatory system that oversees party funding, he decided to use it in Barisan Nasional’s (BN) favour to win the last closely contested general election? In this election, the BN lost the popular vote, but managed to form the government by retaining sufficient seats in parliament.

In his letter, published in Malaysia’s leading newspapers on Aug 1, 2015, Rahman, a minister in Najib’s cabinet - offering his views in his capacity as the BN’s director of strategic communication - drew attention to a meeting held between Transparency International (TI) and members of the opposition parties in Parliament on Dec 1, 2010.

TI had initiated a project to review the financing of politics and to prepare relevant recommendations to eradicate processes that were hindering the conduct of fair elections.

I had been appointed by TI to help implement this project. At that time, the president of TI was Paul Low, now a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. Abdul Rahman disclosed, at this meeting with TI, that opposition parliamentarians were not in favour of mandatory full disclosure of all funding sources as this would deter their contributors from financing their parties.

For the full story go to KINIBIZ .


TERENCE GOMEZ is based at Universiti Malaya. He is the author of ‘Politics in Business: Umno’s Corporate Investments and Malaysia’s Political Economy: Politics, Patronage and Profits’.

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