Special constituency allocations: Why only for elected BN reps?

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These allocations must be made available to all elected officials, BN or not. After all, this is money that belongs to the rakyat, says Francis Loh.

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, MP for Sungai Siput
Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, MP for Sungai Siput

It is most disappointing to learn that the Federal Court has denied Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj’s appeal to initiate a judicial review concerning funds from the Special Constitutuency Allocation (SCA).

The five-man panel chaired by Justice Raus Sharif ruled that the issues raised by Dr Jeyakumar were not under the purview of the Court and therefore not judicially reviewable.

On 29 October 2010, the Sungai Siput MP had filed leave to initiate judicial review proceedings to challenge a decision of the Perak Development Office director. This was after the latter had refused the MP’s application for development funds for SMJK Shin Chung, SJK Methodist and Nurul Ihsan Orphanage and for small projects to benefit Orang Asli villagers, all located within his constituency.

Against the objections of the Attorney-General, the High Court ruled in February 2011 to allow Dr Jeyakumar’s leave application. However, upon appeal by the A-G’s office, the Court of Appeal on 10 October 2011 set aside the decision of the Kuala Lumpur High Court in favour of the MP. This led to Dr Jeyakumar’s application to the Federal Court to challenge the decision of the government agencies which had rejected his application for project funds in his constituency

In plain language, Dr Jeyakumar was questioning why he was being denied access to the special constituency allocation whereas elected Barisan Nasional MPs were given access. And whereas the KL High Court saw the wisdom of his argument, those higher up the judicial hierarchy thought otherwise.

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Although it seems rather straightforward that such unequal treatment is unfair, unjust, in fact contrary to Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution, did the learned judges turn blurry-eyed? Indeed, it is too easy for the learned judges to rule that this matter is a matter of policy and that it falls under the ambit of the Executive.

They would know – and if they don’t, they should know – like the ordinary rakyat in the street, that the unfair and unequal treatment of the BN versus the non-BN elected representatives has favoured the BN politicians. Wouldn’t questions of fairness and justice fall under the ambit of the judiciary?

Indeed, for a long time prior to the 2008 political tsunami, only elected BN officials could afford to run service-cum-complaints centres in their constituencies. Or if the wakil rakyat was unavailable, they would appoint service assistants to handle urgent matters on their behalf.

Apart from launching minor development projects for schools, villages, road and drain repairs, etc, the services rendered by the wakil rakyat range from filling out application forms for passports and MyKads, applying for government subsidies or low-cost houses, getting into schools of the parents’ choice, settling disputes with those providing utilities, and so on.

Additionally, these wakil rakyat organise service task forces whose volunteers were recruited from the ranks of the local party branches. Providing service to the public often became the principle activity, even the rasion d’etre for the local branches when party and general elections were not around the corner. Nowadays, the wakil rakyat also have websites where they announce to the public the various services that they have been providing.

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Plain and simple, the service centres would not have been half as effective if funding was unavailable.

Indeed, such distribution of funds via a Special Constituency Allocation is not a bad idea at all. Indeed, the opposition parties have also opened their own especially in those states that have fallen under the control of the Pakatan Rakyat. Unfortunately, the PR governments appear to be following the lead of the BN by now giving such SCA only to their own elected representatives and not to the BN ones. Tit for tat, apparently!

Since the 2008 political tsunami, in constituencies where the BN was defeated, special constituency coordinators have been appointed by the BN. These coordinators have indirect access to federal funds or allocations and are able to make recommendations as to how such funds should be disbursed in the constituency. But who are these unelected coordinators and why should they exercise such influence?

All this is wrong! The SCA must be made available to all elected officials, BN or not. After all, this is money that belongs to the rakyat.

As we approach GE13, let us pressure both sides, the BN as well as the Pakatan, on where they stand on this issue. We should get assurances from both sides that they will allocate these funds to all, regardless of party.

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Bungaraya
Bungaraya
19 Jan 2013 10.29pm

Dear Francis, the underlying problem is that the government cannot any longer distinguish between public and political interest. If political parties – whether they are part of the Executive or not – want to spend funds from their own accounted budgets, that should be fine. But the allocation of government funds is an entirely different matter. In addition to normal accounting, allocation should make sense in light of the Executive’s political plan and be subjected to parliamentary approval for most significant expenditures which would be used on behalf of ‘the government’, and not BN or UMNO which is often seen on the ground. Of course, the appeal court judges knew that too. Perhaps their renumeration is also tied to their political allegiance? That’s the problem, there is no end to this once just injustice is institutionalized. The PR states should indeed break this situation.