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Re-examine the culture of support letters

  • Support letters involving clash of interests could give rise to abuse of power, for the permit issuing authorities will come under tremendous pressure when receiving such letters from political leaders.

Sin Chew Daily

PPBM Bukit Bintang Youth chief Mohd Noorhisyam Abd Karim has been accused of abusing his power to bag in profit from re-renting the stalls at Ramadan bazaar, with incoming MP for Bukit Bintang Fong Kui Lun being implicated for having issued a letter of support.

The various parties involved have already lodged reports with the police and MACC so that investigations could be carried out.

The Pakatan Harapan government, which has reiterated its stand of rejecting the culture of corruption, must have a very clear stand on this issue of support letter culture.

PPBM Youth chairman Syed Saddiq is strongly against the culture of support letters, especially where there is a clash of interests. He pointed out that civil servants must be bold enough to reject these letters while political leaders must refrain from issuing such letters.

The KL mayor has stated that he will not consider support letters from politicians on the issuance of permits. Thanks to the clear words from Syed Saddiq, the mayor has quickly pledged to reject any letter of support in future.

Nevertheless, PH leaders and elected reps feel that whether support letters should be allowed depends on the purposes of such letters. For instance, if the letters are issued to help the underprivileged to apply for assistance, medical attention or government flats, then they should be allowed.

However, support letters that involve clash of interests could give rise to abuse of power. This is because the permit issuing authorities will come under tremendous pressure when receiving letters of support from political leaders, and are often obliged to issue the permits even against the department's standard operating procedures. As such, support letters for land development, license issuance and other commercial purposes should not be allowed.

As a matter of fact, there were debates on whether the support letter culture should be banned during BN's time. In Pemandu's government transformation program in 2010, it was proposed that support letters from political leaders and other influential individuals must be minimized in a bid to cut down government procurement irregularities.

The proposal was then met with powerful backlash from BN backbenchers who claimed this would make it difficult to facilitate works in their constituencies if they were not allowed to issue support letters, such as application for subsidies. Some Umno ministers, including Nazri, were also against the proposal.

The then opposition parties were vocally supportive. DAP's stand at that time was that the issuance of support letters would influence the authorities' contract awarding decisions, thus deflecting the government's battle against corruption and abuse of power.

Now that PH has become the ruling coalition, it should bring Pemandu's proposal back onto the negotiation table again to show the new government's sincerity in battling corruption.

 

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