The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) refers to the recent appointments by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security of new Chairmen to five Statutory Bodies under the ministry. They are Muhammad Faiz Fadzil as chairman of the Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM); Datuk Mahfuz Omar (Farmers’ Organisation Authority or LPP); Aminuddin Zulkipli (Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority or FAMA); Dr Azman Ismail (Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute or Mardi); and Sheikh Umar Bagharid Ali (Malaysian Pineapple Industry Board or LPNM).
When it comes to political appointments to a statutory body, we take a slightly different stand from appointments to Government-Linked Companies (GLC). Statutory Bodies are established by specific Federal or state laws to carry out specific services or tasks that are not primarily driven by profit and to fulfil government policies.
Our stand is that elected representatives should not to appointed to GLCs or Statutory Bodies as they are elected to be legislators and to serve their constituents.
As it is important to ensure that statutory bodies are carrying out the policies of the government of the day, it would be reasonable for each government to appoint people whom they trust and are in alignment with their policy direction, this may include politicians but such politicians must have necessary competence and credentials related to the Statutory Bodies. Because of potential conflict of interests, appointment of elected representatives should be minimised. Further, measures taken that those with Statutory Body appointment must be subjected to scrutiny by Parliamentary committees as ministers and Deputy ministers are by other lawmakers.
It’s an abuse of public office and trust (Amanah), bordering on hidden corruption, if government simply appoints any party operatives, such as former aides of top leaders, to Statutory Bodies just to financially sustain their political works.
We recognise that parties have the need to maintain full-time operatives but their salaries should be paid for by parties or their affiliated entities, not with public money. Meanwhile, parties deserve annual subsidies from tax payers based on their vote shares in federal and state elections.
The Madani Government should therefore end the old practice of financing government parties’ operation and rewarding party leaders through lucrative postings in GLCs and Statutory Bodies. It should instead design a democratic, fair and accountable system of public funding to political parties, based on the needs of the government parties as well as the opposition.
Meanwhile, as the success or failure of the statutory board is the responsibility of the appointees and the government who appointed them, they must be accountable for failures as well as any abuses or corruption. Scrutiny of these statutory boards should be made by relevant crossparty Parliamentary Special Select Committees to ensure that the objectives of the boards are fulfilled.
As such, those recently appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture to statutory boards under the ministry has to carry out their duties to the rakyat and to be accountable to oversight committees.
BERSIH Steering Committee