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Bersih 'concerned' by Anwar's non-committal stance on helming Finance Ministry

Publish date: Sat, 26 Nov 2022, 07:28 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) today expressed concern over Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's non-committal stance over the possibility of helming the finance minister portfolio.

The NGO, in a statement today, said having the prime minister also helm the finance minister portfolio could affect the necessary 'check and balance' mechanism within the government administration.

"Bersih notes with some concerns the remark of Anwar yesterday that he is not considering the role of the finance minister 'at the moment'.

"He should not for a moment consider it as it would totally remove any semblance of check and balance in the inner sanctum of his own Cabinet. Have we not learned from the follies of Datuk Seri Najib Razak?". 

Najib, who was former prime minister, had also assumed the finance minister post. He is currently serving a prison sentence after being found guilty of embezzling RM42 million in funds belonging to SRC International.

Najib is also on trial for multiple corruption charges involving the 1MDB financial scandal, audit tampering and money laundering.

Bersih, meanwhile, said it welcomed Perikatan Nasional chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's statement that it was rejecting Anwar's offer to be part of his unity government.

The NGO also urged Anwar's government to enable the formation of a Shadow Cabinet for the opposition with commensurate salary, resources and information access for its shadow ministers.

"Every ministry will be scrutinised by only a shadow minister who would be paid half the ministerial salary and provided policy staff but no other perks," it said.

It also suggested that each ministry should contain a parliamentary select committee, filled by both government and opposition backbenchers, with its own policy staff, to further strengthen scrutiny.

"The passing of the Parliamentary Services Act as promised in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto should also be expedited so that the resources for these additional committees and Shadow Cabinet can come direct from Parliament instead of the Ministry of Finance," it said.

It also called for an amendment to the Standing Orders in the Dewan Rakyat to reduce government control of the agenda and time, improving opportunities for Private Member's business, empowering PSSC to act more independently and the management of confidence votes.

"Apart from parliamentary reforms, we need key institutions such as the Judiciary, the Election Commission and the MACC to be independent and free from the influence of the Executive. A Key Appointment Commission to shortlist candidates for the relevant PSSC to further scrutinize would ensure that only independent and qualified candidates are shortlisted for the PM to recommend to the YDPA for appointment.

"The Attorney-General, who should remain as an appointee of the government, should not hold the role of Public Prosecutor, a reform promised by both PH and BN. An immediate transfer of prosecution power to Solicitor General (the apolitical No 2 in AGC) as a temporary measure and a provisional moratorium on prosecution of opposition politicians on non-violence-related cases before the completion of AGC reform to avoid perception of selective prosecution or immunity," it said.

Bersih also advocated greater freedom for the press and civil society organisations.

"Under the new administration, the role of civil society should be acknowledged by allowing organisations that are deemed "political", when they are actually working to advance human and political rights, to be duly registered under a reformed Registrar of Societies that is not influenced by the Executive.

"This would enable these NGOs to access funding and apply for tax-exempt status from MOF. The government should also consider setting up an independent Civil Society Commission to regulate NGOs and fund those who fulfill certain criteria so that they can do their work without constant concerns about sustainability and harassments from the authority," it said.

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