Calls for political system to be free of corporate influences

KUCHING: Lawmakers in Malaysia should look into means to get the country’s political system away from corporate influences, said Socialist Party of Malaysia chairman Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj.

He said it is high time for the country to come up with laws to regulate political or public funding rather than continue seeing political leaders or parties being under corporate influences.

“Political leaders get money from corporate figures. If some businessmen give me money (to fund my political career) and I decide to keep some rather than declaring it all, there is no law to regulate this,” he said during the panel discussion ‘How Can Malaysians Overcome Our Prevailing Cynicism Surrounding Politics and Politicians?’ on Friday.

It was held in conjunction with the launch of the book ‘An Examined Life — Politics And Principles’ — a collection of 62 essays written by former Bandar Kuching MP, the late Sim Kwang Yang.

Nalini Elumalai moderated the discussion on the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections’ (Bersih 2.0) Facebook page.

The other panellists were Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto, Jeffrey Sachs Centre on Sustainable Development political scientist Dr Wong Chin Huat, and UndiSabah programme coordinator Mahirah Marzuki.

Jeyakumar pointed out that “politics is a public or national service” and not a job for individuals to acquire personal gains.

He said politicians must not think of getting involved in politics to grow rich because their fundamental role is to deliver services to the community.

“You (politicians) should go into business if your aim is to get rich. Politics is about serving the people,” he added.

See said voters must participate in politics so that politicians would not monopolise the government and society at large.

He said non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals should shoulder the obligation to see better policies implemented in the country for the benefit of all.

According to him, policymaking should not be left to politicians and political groups alone.

In Sarawak and Sabah, See said rural areas still lacked so much in terms of basic amenities, with many facing poverty.

“They (rural folk) need to put food on the table. Politicians need to learn how to balance things, how to lift them (rural folk) out of it.”

Kasthuri said she regretted seeing some of her counterparts bringing ‘coffeeshop language’ into Parliament, which she felt did not uphold professionalism as a lawmaker.

She opined that some MPs needed to understand their role as lawmakers, and that they were in Parliament to deliberate policies and form laws which would affect the people.

“The (political) situation is a bit fluid even within coalitions, partnerships, and opposition bloc. What is important is transparency — people need to know what is happening in order to make mature and sound judgements,” she said.

According to Mahirah, most Malaysians may have a feeling of hopelessness or even disappointment when it comes to the country’s politics.

She said politicians should initiate more efforts to engage with young voters in political discussions or conversations before they formulated policies.

“Politicians have to be more honest and transparent and they should avoid being seen as disconnected from the people.”

Mahirah added, “Let the young voters know that their voices matter. It is important to include them.”

Wong asserted that parliamentarians in Malaysia were elected to install a government that voters liked and provide services to their constituents.

He observed that one-third of MPs had no ‘national role’, meaning they were not speaker, deputy speaker, or did not hold any Select Committee posts.

“And you expect them to perform,” he said, adding these MPs were mostly from the opposition bench.

Wong called on the opposition bloc to form a shadow cabinet and come up with a shadow budget.

“I don’t care who becomes the prime minister, all I care (about) is your policies.”


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