Constituency funds: Judicial review foiled

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Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj’s attempt to put a judicial spotlight on how RM220m in constituency funds is allocated by the Prime Minister’s Department reached an impasse at the Appeals Court, reports PSM.

jeyakumar
Photo courtesy of Malaysia Today

The Sungai Siput MP’s effort to clean-up the allocation of constituency funds, which exceeds RM220m every year, was brought to an abrupt end in the Appeals Court on 10 October 2011.

To initiate a process of judicial review on a decision taken by the government – in this case, the process by which the PM’s Department allocates this RM220m to the various constituencies – the petitioner must first get “leave” from the High Court.

This “leave” was granted to the Sungai Siput MP by the Jln Duta High Court in February 2011. Many people were impressed that the Court was at last showing signs that it was prepared to play the role of an independent third pillar of a functioning democracy. Maybe the GTP initiatives of the Najib government were bearing early fruit, some might have thought.

One of the requests of the Sungai Siput MP was for an order (mandamus) requiring the PM’s Department to account for how the RM4m was supposedly distributed to various associations and projects in Sungai Siput from March 2008 till today, including providing details of the actual amounts given to the various groups.
If this request were to be granted by the court, it would play a huge role in ensuring that the constituency funds of RM220m per year are used properly and not allegedly pilfered by the intervening layers between the PM’s Department and the grassroots. Surely, such honesty in using the constituency fund would be in line with Najib’s GTP (Government Transformation Program) – if he and the cabinet are serious about really implementing meaningful reforms in the way the government handles public funds!

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The Federal Counsel, however, who should be using his power to promote the interests of the people at large, decided to contest the decision to grant “leave” by taking the issue to the Appeals Court.

And surprise, surprise, the learned Appeals Court panel of three learned judges gravely intoned that the courts cannot query how constituency funds are distributed as that lies within the privilege of the Executive! So the appeal brought by the Federal Counsel was upheld, and the “leave” granted earlier by the High Court was withdrawn. The judicial review cannot proceed.

“It is a sad day for democracy and good governance,” Dr Jeyakumar told the press outside court. “The issue isn’t really about me getting the RM1m each year. The underlying issue is to do with transparency in the use of public funds. I would estimate that around RM40bn out of the budget of RM232bn that was tabled by the PM last Friday, will (allegedly) go into the pockets of cronies in the course of 2012 through over-priced projects. To put this RM40bn in perspective, just remember that the entire budget of the Selangor State government was only RM1.5bn last year.”

“If this case against misuse of constituency funds was allowed, it would have sent a strong message that the government is serious about the GTP, and there would be more financial accountability in the usage of public funds,” Jeyakumar added.

“Today’s Appeal Court decision is a further step backwards. And it is the rakyat who are the real losers today. Since the courts are failing us, we have to refer the matter to the Court of the People through the medium of the 13th General Elections!”

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Chronology

  • 12 October 2010: The Director of the Perak Development Office, a Federal Officer under the Implementation Coordinating Unit (ICU) of the Prime Minister’s Department, rejected Dr Jeyakumar’s application for funds for several projects including a Muslim orphanage, a Buddhist old folks home, two Tamil primary schools, a Chinese secondary school, an association for the disabled, and several such projects in the Sungai Siput constituency. This was the fifth time in the past three years that Dr Jeyakumar’s application for a portion of the constituency funds had been rejected.
  • 29 October 2010: Case filed in the Jalan Duta High Court requesting “leave” of the court for the process of judicial review.25 February 2011: Leave was granted by the Jalan Duta High Court.
  • 23 March 2011: Federal Counsel filed an application in the Appeals Court, Putrajaya, to set aside the leave that had been granted.
  • The Federal Counsel then filed a “stay” application asking that the hearing of the original judicial review be stopped until after their Appeal at Putrajaya is decided.
  • 29 July 2011: Hearing of the “stay” application by the Jalan Duta High Court. Decision deferred.
  • 21 September 2011: Appeal heard at the Putrajaya Appeals Court. Decision deferred.
  • 22 September 2011: Decision delivered on the “stay” application – not granted. Parties to proceed with the case on 12 October 2011
  • 10 October 2011: For decision on the Appeal.

It is this cloak of secrecy that emboldens BN politicians and senior officers of the administration to allegedly pilfer public funds. These efforts to deny the PSM Member of Parliament a forum in court is actually bad for the BN itself for it strengthens the perception that BN politicians will not be pulled up for corrupt practices – and this only serves to reinforce the culture of corruption within the administration.

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