Malaysia proposes ban on foreign donations as part of efforts to regulate political financing

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Senator Datuk Paul Low said the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing has proposed to the government to table the new laws under the Political Donations and Expenditure Act.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Senator Datuk Paul Low said the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing has proposed to the government to table the new laws under the Political Donations and Expenditure Act. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A special panel in Malaysia on Friday (Sept 30) proposed new laws to curb abuse of political financing, including a recommendation to ban donations from foreign sources.

The panel also proposed removing a cap on donations and having donations above RM3,000 (S$994) declared and the donor identified. It also proposed that all donations must be deposited into a specific designated bank account set up at the federal, state and divisional level.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Senator Datuk Paul Low said the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing has proposed to the government to table the new laws under the Political Donations and Expenditure Act.

"It is clear that we lack clear regulations for political funding.

"We need such regulations, as over the years, we have seen that there is an increasing monetisation in politics and in the political arena,'' said Mr Low.

"The good governance of the nation cannot be resolved unless we have political integrity and as such we need regulations for political funding," he said when announcing the committee's 32-point recommendation at the Malaysian Institute of Integrity.

Among the recommendations is the setting up of an Office of Controller of Political Donations and Expenditure who is answerable to a Board of Governors comprising non-political and respected members.

Also recommended is the setting up of a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Financing to scrutinise the work of the Controller.

"We are also recommending that... donations from foreign sources to a political funding party or politician are banned," said Mr Low. "We do not want outside influence on local political institutions as a means to safeguard the nation's sovereignty."

Mr Low said donations to political parties and individuals must be "robustly regulated" with all donations deposited into a specific designated bank account set up at the federal, state and divisional level.

"At present, we can see that donations can be mixed personal accounts and not to the party which makes it difficult to identify," he added.

The accounts, he said, must be audited by certified accountants and submitted to the Controller.

He also said that money from "unknown sources" would be confiscated by the Controller and used for activities to strengthen democracy in Malaysia.

The political donations cover both donations in cash or in kind above RM3,000 per annum or accumulative, which must be declared to the Controller.

Mr Low said that the committee's recommendations will be submitted to the Cabinet in two weeks' time.

"I can't say whether it will become law before the 14th General Election but I am certain it will be for the 15th General Election," he added.