Jomo: Foreign political funding always raises red flag

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Source: FMT News

Forum on electoral reform hears proposal to prevent caretaker government from announcing new projects and dishing out contracts during a general election campaign. Pic from FMT News.

PETALING JAYA: Whenever a political party receives funds amounting to billions of dollars from a foreign donor, alarm bells should be set off, economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram said.

“It’s something that we need to view seriously. These foreigners donate not because they support a party, but because they have another motive,” Jomo told a forum on electoral reform here last night.

While he did not specify any particular case, it is believed he was alluding to the RM2.6 billion that was deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts in March 2013, two months before the last general election (GE13).

The deposits were first reported in 2015 by the Wall Street Journal which alleged the funds were siphoned from state-owned investment firm 1MDB.

Najib denied the allegation and said the RM2.6 billion was a donation from a member of the Saudi royal family. The Attorney-General, Mohamed Apandi Ali, has cleared Najib of any wrongdoing.

“It is our responsibility to ensure elections are not bought or we risk selling out the country,” said Jomo, who once served as the assistant secretary-general for economic development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Another panellist, prominent human rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan proposed that a law be enacted to clearly spell out the role of a caretaker government from the time parliament was dissolved for a general election until a new government was formed.

He said a caretaker government would have no mandate from the people and, therefore, had no right to announce new projects during the election campaign period.

The function of a caretaker government, he explained, was to ensure the administration of a country ran smoothly during the election.

“It can’t give out contracts, neither can it announce new projects or new appointments. A code of conduct or a law will ensure that the caretaker government would do only the bare minimum to ensure a smooth administration,” he said, adding that this matter should be addressed before the next general election.

The opposition in the past had accused the Barisan Nasional of misusing government machinery to campaign, including announcing new projects.

“Maybe the Election Offences Act can be amended for this and it can be passed if there is political will.

“If the government needs help, civil society will be happy to help them draft the law,” he said.