Institutionalise placement of Electoral Commission and others under Parliament

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Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Election (Bersih 2.0) applauds the Pakatan Harapan government for reshuffling the Prime Minister’s Department by placing the Electoral Commission (EC), the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Audit Department under Parliament.

This is indeed a crucial step for institutional reform by making them truly independent and reporting directly to the parliament.

But merely changing the placement of these institutions is not sufficient. For this massive reform to take root and be institutionalised, the respective enabling legislations of these institutions must be amended to reflect such changes at least in the following manner:

The enabling legislations of these institution should have clear provision that they report directly to Parliament without having to go through the Prime Minister’s Department for vetting or approval. As of now, there is no provision in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 or the Election Commission Act 1954 that states the line of accountability of these two institutions.

The reports of these institutions should be debated and approved, and not merely presented to th Parliament, as in the case of Suhakam.

The legal amendments should also provide for the budget of these institutions to come under the budget of Parliament instead of the budget of the Prime Minister’s Department. The fiscal independence of these institution from the executive branch is crucial to ensure politically motivated incidents such as the slashing of the Suhakam budget by half by the executive branch under the Barisan Nasional regime will be prevented in future.

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The appointment process of members of these institutions should also be revamped to incorporate a more transparent, accountable and participatory process by the public and not merely by the executive branch. This would ensure the best candidates are chosen for the job;

These independent institutions should be given power to recruit, suspend or sack their own staff.

Without institutionalisation these changes in law, this change of placement of the institutions under Parliament based on an administrative order may be reversed at any time.

Bersih 2.0 urges all members of Parliament to support such reform during parliamentary debates to strengthen our democracy.

Bersih 2.0 steering committee

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