In an attempt to drive home its concerns over the National Anti-Financial Crime Centre (NFCC) Bill, Bersih turned the clock back to before the last general election when Pakatan Harapan unveiled its manifesto, which among others, promised to reform key institutions.
The electoral watchdog hoped this would convince the government to revise the Bill in order to limit the power vested in the prime minister and prevent another mega scandal.
Bersih quoted Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad 's words in the foreword to the Buku Harapan which reads: "With the publication of this book, we also humbly pledge that we are willing to be judged by the people on how far we fulfil our promises when we are in government. If we fail or if we break our promises, by all means, reject us in the next general election.
"We cannot hope this regime (BN) will correct itself. The only way to correct the situation is by bringing in a new government that has the credibility to implement the promises in this manifesto. A change of government will correct the mistakes of the current regime."
Though welcoming the NFCC to combat complex and transnational financial crimes, Bersih, however, objected to the appointment of the director-general being the sole prerogative of the prime minister, and the NFCC coming under the purview of the Prime Minister's Department.
“We strongly disagree with the law minister's explanation that there is no requirement for the appointment of the director-general to go through the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on major appointments.
“This is a new law; make it part of the process that the appointment must be vetted by the PSC and they have the power to reject unqualified and partisan candidates.
“Lessons must be learnt from the1MDB scandal that allowing the prime minister to have control over NFCC would potentially make it a 'cover-up' agency for financial crimes committed by future prime ministers or the government unless this is the intention — to facilitate cover-ups,” it added in a statement this afternoon.
The NFCC Bill was tabled by de facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
Place NFCC under Bank Negara's purview
Meanwhile, Bersih said concentrating such powers under the Prime Minister's Department would be a violation of Harapan's promise to limit the prime minister's ability to manipulate key institutions.
Apart from creating stronger check-and-balance mechanisms, it pointed out that Harapan, in its election manifesto, vowed to decentralise relevant powers to other bodies, including the Parliament.
Therefore, Bersih urged that the NFCC Bill be revised to include a transparent vetting process for the appointment of the director-general, and for the NFCC to be placed under Bank Negara instead.
“The country can ill-afford a repeat of a financial scandal the magnitude of 1MDB and legislated preventive measures must be in place immediately, not just for this NFCC Bill, but for other amendments to secure the independence of key institutions, including Bank Negara itself and Parliament.
“Bersih also suggests that the term 'director-general' be replaced with 'chairperson" as the former is usually associated with the civil service and such appointments are initiated by the chief secretary to the government. It would also elevate the stature of the office to reflect the importance of the NFCC.
“Show us your credibility, fulfil all your promises, especially your promise to reform our institutions,” it added.
Last week, Mahathir said Harapan had become a victim of its manifesto, which he claimed was crafted with the belief that the coalition would not be able to defeat BN in the last general election.
“Now we are being criticised for not keeping our promises. While it is easy to make promises during elections, it is not so easy to implement them if you win,” he had added.