- The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) condemns PH Selangor State Government’s withholding RM 30,000 Covid-19 allocation from 9 opposition assemblypersons. (https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2020/03/23/opposition-reps-in-selangor-excluded-from-special-allocations) This happens just days after the PN federal government’s pulling back constituency funding for PH parliamentarians, which Bersih 2.0 condemns with the same degree of disgust. (https://www.bersih.org/press-statement-21-march-2020-stop-all-constituency-funding-discrimination-against-opposition-representatives-at-federal-and-state-levels/)
- Bersih 2.0 repeats its call for all governing coalition/parties – PN at the federal level and 3 states, PH in 4 states, BN in 2 states, PAS in 2 states, GPS in Sarawak and Warisan-PH in Sabah – to ditch the practice of discriminating opposition in constituency allocation and turning public fund into partisan favour.
- Such unscrupulous, unethical and dishonorable practice is not only a betrayal of the electorate, but also a hangover from BN’s one-party state mentality, in which politicians from government parties treat public funding as party property.
- Bersih 2.0 recognises both the pitfalls of constituency development fund (CDF) (https://www.internationalbudget.org/publications/brief10/) and the root causes of such demand.
- Malaysian voters expect their elected representatives to help them financially on small infrastructure projects or social activities, whether using government’s fund or their own money. Distributed at the elected representatives’ discretion, CDF is a systemic solution for locals to by-pass red tapes and get financial support, especially when local authorities in Malaysia are unelected since 1965 and often unresponsive to public need.
- However, elected representatives helping constituents has two obvious pitfalls. First, when public fund is used, it is susceptible to abuse, wastage and corruption. Second, whether publicly or privately sourced, this reinforces patronage-clientele relationship between elected representatives and voters.
- Until a better alternative emerges, Bersih calls for administration of CDF be formalized as part of the job for elected representatives, with rigorous guidelines, monitoring and auditing to prevent abuse, wastage and corruption. This will allow all voters to request funding without feeling personal obligation to the representatives.
- Through his political secretary Borhan Aman Shah, Selangor MB Amirudin Shari tried to justify the discriminatory practice by arguing that like normal CDF, this special Covid-19 allocation is given to all constituencies but the funding for opposition-held constituencies is managed by “constituency coordinators” appointed by the State Government.
- If anything, such lame explanation is but an admission of institutionalized clientelism, forcing voters to be politicians’ clientele. When government funding for opposition-held constituencies are managed by unelected agents of the government, this is openly forcing voters – especially those voting for the opposition – to turn to the government parties and owe the latter favours.
- Bersih 2.0 calls upon PH supreme leader Anwar Ibrahim to implement at the state level what is promised in Buku Harapan’s “Promise 16: Restore the Dignity of the Parliament”: “We will provide funding based on a transparent formula to all members of the Dewan Rakyat so that they can carry out the responsibilities in their respective constituencies and to run their service centers.”
- This call should be supported by Amirudin Shari, Chow Kon Yeow, Aminuddin Harun and Mukhriz Mahathir as the Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers of the four PH-governed states and Syed Saddiq (https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/515750) and other PH parliamentarians who complain about allocation discrimination. Bersih 2.0 is prepared to meet the PH leadership, at federal or state, to assist in CDF reform.
- Bersih 2.0 also calls upon Selangor opposition leader Rizam Ismail (UMNO) and eight other opposition assemblypersons to urge the Federal Government and seven state governments in the Peninsula controlled by their parties to lead by example in treating opposition honourably in CDF. If they approve the same practice by their own parties, crying foul on Selangor’s discrimination will only make them shameless hypocrites.
Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0
(Image credit: Jabatan Penerangan Malaysia)