PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A group of former high-ranking civil servants in Malaysia on Saturday expressed support for Prime Minister Najib Razak's call for political parties to declare their source of funding.
The group called G25 said the proposal to set up a national consultative committee to regulate political funding was a positive one, as it would help "clean up" local politics.
It said the Malaysian government needs to address public concern about donations from powerful individuals and companies, which could be linked to cronyism, favouritism, and corruption.
"And if the donors are foreign, there is a question whether they have a sinister agenda in getting involved in our politics," G25 said in a statement.
The group said the integrity of elections could be threatened if the winning party was perceived to have had an unfair advantage by spending more money to attract voters.
"The whole purpose of holding elections will become a farce if the public sees it as a meaningless ritual in democracy, which is manipulated by the rich and powerful to serve their own interests.
"The proposal to have a law making all political parties declare their source of funding should be welcomed as an urgent need to save the legitimacy of elections and the survival of democracy," it said.
G25 proposed several measures to legitimise political contributions, which included legislation to legitimise political funding, setting a limit to individual or corporate donations, and banning donations from foreign entities.
It also suggested that political parties be mandated by law to submit sources of funds exceeding RM1,000 to the Election Commission (EC) yearly, besides providing evidence of how the donations were utilised.
"The accounts will be audited by the EC and made public on its website. This enables the public to scrutinise material sources of political funding which could enable identification of potential conflicts of interests and improves accountability of fund utilisation," G25 said.
It also wants public campaign funding for all parties, whether they are in the Government or opposition, as this will reduce reliance on contributions from private entities and wealthy interest groups.
"Funding could be given in terms of post-election rebates for campaigning costs, provided that the candidates meet certain criteria, such as garnering a minimum percentage of eligible votes in the election.
"At the same time, it is also necessary to review the electoral rules to make the election process free and fair for all so that when political parties and election candidates are able to compete on a level playing field, such as having equal access to the mainstream media, it makes it easier for them to campaign with a small budget," the group added.
Najib had announced on Friday that a national consultative committee will be set up to formulate guidelines on political funding.
The committee, which will be spearheaded by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Paul Low, will be tasked with ensuring that political parties are more transparent about their source of funding by the time the 14th general election takes place.
The committee will consist of representatives from political parties, community leaders, academicians, civil societies and even youths, said the Prime Minister.