Constituency Development Funds for all: Congrats to PR-led Penang state government

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Aliran commends the Penang state government for extending constituency allocations to each of the 10 BN Aduns.

Penang State Assembly - Photograph: Wikipedia
The Penang government has set a fine example by extending constituency allocations to opposition State Assembly members – Penang State Assembly photograph: Wikipedia

Aliran congratulates the Pakatan Rakyat Penang State Government under YAB Lim Guan Eng for deciding to allocate RM40,000 annually to each of the 10 Barisan Nasional (BN) State Legislative Assembly members (SLAs or Aduns) for development purposes.

Chief Minister Lim clarified that this would be distributed at the beginning of next year pending approval of the 2014 state budget. This allocation to the assemblymen is sometimes referred to as the Special Constituency Allocation (SCA), or as the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

It is well-known that the BN government, in its 50-plus years in power, had consistently discriminated against all Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) and all Opposition Aduns by denying them access to the CDF which was only made available to the BN MPs and Aduns. This was so although the money that was allocated came from national coffers, ultimately, from the rakyat.

Such selective denial of national funds to elected Opposition MPs and Aduns is tantamount to ridiculing a basic principle of democracy which is that the rakyat, regardless of race or religion, and in this case regardless of whom they voted for, should be treated equally and fairly. Aliran and other civil society groups, time and again, had rightly condemned the BN for this practice of selective discrimination.

Indeed, following GE12 in March 2008, after PR-led governments had come to power in Penang, Selangor, Kelantan, Kedah, and for a while in Perak, Aliran had called upon the PR-led state governments to practise good governance by allocating the CDF to all elected wakil rakyat, regardless of party affiliation. Alas, this was not done, which we also criticised.

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However, better late than never! We therefore congratulate the Penang State Government for this latest move. We hope that this amount will be increased to the same amount that the other PR Aduns are given. We further call upon the PR-led governments in Selangor and Kelantan to adopt the same. Hopefully, the federal BN government in Putrajaya will then be pressured to follow the example of the PR-led Penang State government too.

Meanwhile, we take this opportunity to further congratulate the Penang State Government for insisting that all members of its new State Executive Council (after GE13) declare the assets that they own publicly, once again. This policy was first introduced following GE12 in 2008. So, check out a recent issue of Buletin Mutiara which contains these declarations of assets owned, and duly signed, by the State Exco Members concerned, and by the auditing company tasked to assist in this policy.

We understand that the Cabinet members of the BN federal government have been required to declare their assets to the prime minister, too. But these declarations have never made public! Apparently, the Exco Members of the BN-led state governments are not even required to declare their assets privately, let alone publicly.

Consequently, we are unable to verify whether those allegations of top politicians using their positions ‘to get rich quick’ are true of not. For example, is it true that Taib Mahmud, the long-serving chief minister of Sarawak, has used his office to acquire those billions of ringgit of assets as alleged in so many postings in the on-line Sarawak Reporter? Think about it, if those assets owned by Taib Mahmud had been declared publicly, the MACC, now, reportedly, investigating those allegations, might have an easier task, instead of having to start from scratch.

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In this matter, perhaps new Minister Paul Low, previously in charge of Transparency International Malaysia, should get his boss to insist on public declarations of assets by all cabinet ministers and state executive councilors, regardless of whether they belong to the BN or PR. That would be a major contribution on his part and would perhaps justify his participation in the federal Cabinet, considering that he is not elected at all!

In conclusion, we congratulate the PR-led Penang State Government headed by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng for introducing these two important policies:
1) making available developments funds to all Aduns regardless of party affiliation, and
2) declaring the assets owned by the members of the Penang State Executive Councillors publicly.

Both policies will help to deepen our democracy, besides promoting good governance.

On our part, Aliran is even more convinced that good governance and the rakyat’s interests are better served if we have in place a two-party system in the Legislature, which together with an independent judiciary, free media, and strong civil society, will act as checks and balances over the Executive, currently one dominated by Umno-BN for more than fifty years. Although it is early days yet, yes, the call for Change remains.

Dr Francis Loh
President, Aliran
24 September 2013

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