IT is regrettable that hardly six months after the government announced the establishment of the Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC), concerns regarding integrity and good governance surfaced at the second annual general assembly of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) held at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) recently.
At the assembly, a war of words erupted between two camps — one representing the Youth wing, Armada, headed by Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, (the youngest cabinet minister in Malaysian history) and the other representing the “old guard” (viewed by some quarters as almost akin to the warlords during Barisan Nasional’s time)
The verbal conflict began when the latter group’s leading spokesman, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman (Bersatu vice-president and former Election Commission chairman), urged the government not to stop division leaders from giving out contracts as they were needed to sustain the party’s machinery and win elections. Saying that elections must be won “by hook or by crook”, Rashid said it was “stupid” to think that party leaders should not get help from the government.
He added that many division and branch chiefs came to see him with their problems, one of which is the lack of money to serve the community. He regretted that his efforts to help them attracted criticisms from various quarters, including some who labelled him as protecting cronies. He was apparently given a standing ovation by the attendees at the assembly.
Opposing Rashid’s proposal, Syed Saddiq said the “politics of patronage” must not be allowed. For the nation to move forward, he said: “We need to ensure that only those who deserve are the ones who get it.” Voicing his support for Syed Saddiq, Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir said Bersatu must prevent the “Umno culture” from being brought into the party.
Rashid’s proposal also did not go down well with Perak DAP chairman Nga Kor Ming, who said that the “bad culture” of BN must not be brought into Pakatan Harapan (PH). Bearing in mind that PH won GE14 because the people wanted a clean, fair and transparent government, DAP strongly opposed such a proposal. Stating that “granting contracts is not the culture of Pakatan”, Nga said that government contracts should go through open tenders.
Support for Rashid came from supreme council member Redzuan Yusof, who said that “Rashid wants us to accept the reality that division chiefs are vital to sustain grassroots support”.
Since the prime minister himself has said that government contracts would be awarded fairly based on merit, there is no need to fear political patronage or corrupt practices. “We have SOPs, processes, and control procedures to uphold governance and prevent corrupt practices,” he added.
Syed Saddiq’s opposition to Rashid’s proposals and his vocal attack on certain quarters resulted in some division chiefs
lambasting the Youth wing and calling for his ouster from the party.
“Syed Saddiq must atone for his sins for embarrassing Bersatu and apologise openly to Federal Territories Bersatu and division chiefs,” said one division chief. Another division chief was quoted as saying, “Armada’s insolence in challenging the division chiefs has gone overboard. Armada does not know who they are challenging”.
Saddened by this war between the Youth wing and the “older” in Bersatu, my university colleague said it is not just a clash of personalities and age, but a conflict of value systems and expectations. The former looks at integrity as a rule not to be breached, but the latter believes that some leeway is necessary for political survival. Another friend (a 70-year-old retiree) jokingly said that, “the thinking of an old guard sometimes cannot be understood by a 25 year-old”.
A local daily subsequently reported that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the statement by Rashid was his personal view. “It was not a party decision. He gave his own opinion”.
Declaring that it is “disturbed” by Rashid’s call to the government, the anti-graft NGO Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) urged the Bersatu leadership to reprimand him for making such a call because it would bring Malaysia “back to how it was under Umno”.
C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel said it was time for Dr Mahathir to keep his word regarding public procurement laws as promised in the PH election manifesto. Reminding the government that it won on the ticket of good governance, she said it is now imperative that it does not renege on its promise. She urged the government to engage the relevant stakeholders as soon as possible to draft a public procurement law.
I couldn’t agree more. There are many models of public procurement law in foreign jurisdictions for us to consider. For a start, we can take a look at the Danish Public Procurement Act of 2015, alternatively the Public Procurement Act 2001 of Croatia.
The writer formerly served the Attorney-General’s Chambers before he left for private practice, the corporate sector and academia.