Sunday 19 May 2024
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on January 9, 2023 - January 15, 2023

For years, we have heard complaints that lawmakers, especially those in the opposition party, do not receive any funding — or substantially less — from the government of the day to take care of their respective constituencies.

So much so that many of us have come to terms with the fact that our respective constituency will see little progress if it is overseen by an elected representative from the opposition. This is akin to punishing voters for not voting for the “right coalition”.

It is no surprise, then, that member of parliament for Arau Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim recently raised the point that the current government was not giving opposition MPs any funding even though government MPs had already received their allocations.

One could say that it’s a case of tit for tat — and that perhaps Shahidan ought not to grumble so much, given that when he was on the other side of the august hall, he did not push for opposition lawmakers to receive a similar allocation.

But it’s time this practice — or prerogative — is changed.

It is time for the government of the day to ensure all elected representatives, regardless of party or coalition, be accorded a fair distribution of allowances and allocations to allow them to undertake their constituency responsibilities more effectively. This isn’t about taking sides, but possessing the right mindset to advance the country. No constituency should be left behind, or disadvantaged, anymore.

In fact, we should go further by enacting a new law on equal constituency funding at both the federal and state levels. This is so that future governments cannot change the distribution of allowances and allocations to suit the whims of the sitting prime minister, menteri besar or chief minister.

And to safeguard against extravagant or misuse of public funds, the MPs will be required to make public how the money is spent via, for example, the parliament website. This will also increase transparency and provide the public a window into how the respective MPs are using their large allocations — be it on projects that benefit the constituents or populist projects to buy votes.

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