Electoral reform group Bersih is concerned at the act of several politicians from both sides of the political divide plastering their own image on items intended for Covid-19 relief.
“Bersih expresses grave concern on the faces and names of elected politicians appearing on Covid-19 gifts for constituents such as rice and hand sanitiser, as some may involve abuse of government funding.
“We call on all involved representatives to publicly declare the cost and source of such gifts.
Bersih listed 19 such instances where images of politicians were plastered on rice packets, hand sanitisers and gift packages.
They include leaders such as Annuar Musa (Umno), Saifuddin Abdullah (Bersatu), Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz (PAS), Mukhriz Mahathir (Bersatu), Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail (Umno), S Veerapan (DAP), Azmin Ali (Bersatu), Ismail Sabri Yaakob (Umno) and Noraini Ahmad (Umno).
Other leaders include R Summugam (PKR), Najwan Halimi (PKR), Nga Kor Ming (DAP), Khalid Samad (Amanah), Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman (Bersatu), Hannah Yeoh (DAP), Lim Lip Eng (DAP), Fahmi Fadzil (PKR), Chan Ming Kai (PKR) and Young Syefura Othman (DAP).
“In the most clear-cut cases, two federal ministers (Annuar Musa, Saifuddin Abdullah), a federal deputy minister (Ikmal Hisham) and a state exco (S Veerapan) have their faces and/or names featured on the gift pack, in both their capacities as federal/state minister and constituency representative.
“In the grey area, menteri besar, Mukhriz Mahathir and Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, provide gifts printed with their portrait in the name of their state government.
“If the gifts involve funds for state-wide purposes but are given only to their own constituencies or very selected recipients personally connected to them, and not for all qualified recipients across the state, they too should be investigated for abuse of power,” it said.
It added if the leaders funded the aid relief from their constituency funds and distributed them in that capacity, then there is no legal issue.
Likewise, if they had paid from their own pocket, then that is also not an issue.
“It is not unlawful for politicians to seek name recognition after forking out their own money to aid their constituents.
“However, this nevertheless still encourages clientelism and erodes democracy.
“The ultimate solution is to have first, professional, impartial and responsive state agencies to sufficiently provide for constituents’ need for local development and relief; second, a strong civil society to allow members of society to support each other,” it said.
Bersih urged politicians to stop advertising their photo and name on relief goods and make public the expenses and source for the Covid-19 relief items.
It also called for a rigorous oversight mechanism and the lifting of excessive restrictions on NGOs doing relief work doing the Covid-19 crisis.