On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Weeding out a long-time malady

If money politics is mere fantasy, then Datuk Seri Dr
Mahathir Mohamad must have  been
ill-informed. There would have been no 
need for him to issue so many warnings before the party elections.

There was only talk, perhaps because no 
complaint was lodged or no one was caught  in the act.

Money politics, it has been alleged, first 
surfaced during the 1993 party polls. Till today, candidates have
privately complained  of delegates who
demand money, contracts  and state
awards.

It would not be realistic to expect money 
politics to go away with warnings from the  president. For a start, Umno members
have  to change their mindset and rid
themselves  of the handout
mentality.

To think that money is required to do a 
good political job is a flawed assumption.

One delegate openly proposed that the 165 
divisions be allocated RM1mil each to enable them to conduct their
political activities  better.

The Kedah Youth leader was not the only 
one. A student, speaking on behalf of the  overseas Umno clubs, also asked for
money.

It has become so predictable. At every 
general assembly, even before she spoke, 
reporters following the debates at the media  centre all forecast correctly that she
would  ask for subsidy.

She revealed how Parti Keadilan Nasional 
campaigners, who appear to have the financial means, had travelled to
Europe to  preach reformasi.

The student blamed the Government's delay in sending their scholarship money as
a  cause for the Opposition gaining
support  among students overseas.

That's a lame excuse. One Barisan Nasional component party with an
overseas  club is so resourceful that it
runs a newsletter for Malaysians, fully sponsored by travel  agencies and phone companies.

The club also helps Malaysians who run 
foul of the law there or encounter money 
problems  all that without a
single sen  from party
headquarters.

Money is certainly needed to run the operations of a modern political party effectively.

Even the opposition parties, judging from 
the number of posters, banners and flags put  up during last year's polls, must have
spent  quite a bit.

But there is no guarantee that money will 
win votes, at least in a general election. It is  not a way to win the hearts and minds of
the  people.

The Kuomintang, reputed to be the richest 
party in the world, lost in the Taiwan election. It was the same with
cash-rich Golkar  in Indonesia.

Umno leaders have to lead by example if 
they want party members and the public to  believe that they are serious in
fighting  money politics.

They should stop flaunting their wealth, for 
one. A reporter cynically described the 
parking area at the Pan Pacific Hotel as having the “larget number of
luxury cars in the  smallest area in
Malaysia'' during the general assembly.

It'd be nice to see Protons in the area for a 
change.