Politicians must cease practice of handing out cash during festive seasons – C4 Center

PETALING JAYA, April 5: The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) has called on politicians to stop handing out cash to public servants during festive seasons, saying such practices will only legitimise money politics and the use of wealth to garner influence.

In a statement today, citing the case of UMNO Youth chief, Akmal Saleh who on March 29 uploaded a video of himself distributing envelopes containing money to police personnel in Jasin, Melaka in conjunction with the upcoming Hari Raya celebrations, C4 Center said whatever the reason, the culture of informal gift-giving from people in positions of power to public servants cannot be justified.

Akmal had also later expressed that he would be giving similar donations to local council officials and the Jasin district land office the following week. 

“Cash handouts have become the standard modus operandi for political parties and politicians to gain supporters throughout the course of Malaysian history, especially in times of unstable socio-economic conditions.

“Most recently, cash handouts were the main form of government aid during the COVID-19 pandemic as opposed to funds being used to strengthen infrastructure and welfare services, with some federally-allocated funds allegedly diverted into accounts of political parties.”

C4 Center said the Inspector-General of the Police Razarudin Husain had already stated in February that police officers are forbidden from receiving cash packets in order to preserve the integrity of the police and their ability to act impartially.

“Akmal’s defence of his actions, like so many politicians in similar situations before him, falls on the basis that his actions were not strictly unlawful, while also contending that the gift-giving was done openly in the presence of department heads. However, such actions still fall within the wider definition of “corruption” — at the very least, such actions are considered detrimental to good governance practices. The act of giving money, no matter how small the amount, to police personnel as well as other civil service workers, could inadvertently create bias in the execution of their duties.

“Many politicians refuse to acknowledge the fact that their standing as a public figure involved in party politics allows them to potentially leverage their influence to benefit themselves and their party. Gaining the support of the civil service and police in particular greatly benefits their political ambitions as both these groups are in advantageous positions, being entrusted to carry out government policy and are thus the “red tape” in government bureaucracy. Such practices by community leaders implicitly endorse the view that gifting money is an acceptable form of network-building, with this endorsement being extended on behalf of their political party as well. 

Politicians must be made to realise that such “cultural practices” are not free from criticism especially when they have been proven time and time again to be exploited as a vehicle for corruption to take place, and must be discouraged and eliminated at all levels of government, C4 Center said. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic also coincided with the 15th Malaysian General Elections, which saw a spike in cash handouts during election season. The proliferation of this culture both in and outside of election campaigning season has additionally resulted in a culture of expectation of cash handouts by members of the public, even though that is ultimately not the duty of state legislative assemblypersons or Members of Parliament.”

C4 Center said unregulated political funding has remained a major problems, with the conflation of business and politics ever-growing with money earned from politicians’ private enterprises is funnelled into parties and ultimately funds parties’ outreach activities.

It has urged the government to prioritise the enactment of a Political Funding Act to cut off the avenues by which parties can channel money in order to gain power and influence.

“The practice of “gift-giving” by individuals with wealth and power only serves to reinforce the accumulation of power by these individuals, while the general public see their interests less and less represented in politics.”

— WE