PM, ruling MPs will be regarded as public officers

Dr Mahathir says this is to make public administrators answerable to the law

By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

The prime minister (PM), as well as Cabinet members and parliamentarians representing ruling political parties, will be regarded as public officers who are liable to the country’s anti-corruption laws.

PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said several federal laws will be amended, while new regulations will be introduced to expand the scope of public administration officials.

The government will also make amendments to the government’s code of ethics in the near future to make public administrators answerable to the law, compared to their current status.

He said this is among several changes to be made to the code soon, to hold those in power more accountable.

“The public administrators will not be spared from the law if they have assets that cannot be justified. They all have to declare their assets and income,” Dr Mahathir told a press conference yesterday after chairing a special Cabinet committee meeting on anti-corruption.

Dr Mahathir cited a High Court ruling that declared former PM Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak as not a public officer — a status that can always be challenged if the laws are amended.

In April last year, the High Court in a landmark judgement ruled that the PM is not a public officer, but a member of administration, in striking out a law-suit against then PM Najib for misfeasance in public office.

“There was a decision before that the PM and deputy PM (DPM) were not part of the administration, but we have decided they will be regarded as part of the administration along with Cabinet members and MPs of the ruling party.

“The courts of law are not god. Their rulings can be changed. If they make rulings that are not in keeping with the times, then we can amend the law.

“If the court, under dubious circumstances before, said that the PM and DPM are above the law, we can change it. They will not be spared,” Dr Mahathir said.

He added that those mentioned would also be required to declare their assets, as well as any gifts they receive while in office to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

“However, we will give lee-way to those who receive pre-sents such as flowers, food and plaques,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported a law on political funding that does not give any personal gain to the donors will be enacted as part of the government’s effort to curb corruption.

Dr Mahathir said the government would study the system of political funding in other countries to find the best practices in the implementation of the law.

“In some countries, the government provides the funds to political parties. That is done, I think, in Germany. We will study whether that is something that we can do.

“But, on the other hand, we see the US which has a system of lobbyists and they are paid to influence the government to do certain things for the people who paid the money.

“That, to us, is corruption. We will not allow that in Malaysia,” he said.

Also present at the press conference were DPM Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail; Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali; Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong and DG of the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed.

Dr Mahathir, who is also chairman of the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition, said political funding is necessary for political parties, especially during elections when a lot of money is required.

However, he said, it is quite difficult to determine if a political donation was a bribe or not.

“The members and supporters will provide the money, but when you give supporters the right to provide money to political parties, they may give the money in the hope that if the political party wins, then they will be favoured,” he said.

Last year, the Political Donations and Expenditure Bill was drawn up under the then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan.

However, the bill was not tabled before the 14th General Election in May.