HERE’S what many people don’t know about the Umno disciplinary board, now busy cracking down on money politics ahead of the party general assembly and elections later this month:
Some cases are dropped simply because the complainants failed to fill in Form A;
- Many complaints relating to the holding of gatherings and receptions cannot be dealt with as they are not accompanied by pictures, names of those who attended and original receipts (no photocopies) for payments made by the person picking up the tab;
- About 40 per cent of complaints were found to be baseless and 35 per cent needed “more evidence”;
- At least one complainant is being charged with making a false statement after he withdrew his complaint due to external pressure.
It seems like a thankless task, as the board is often targeted for criticism by disgruntled party members. The allegations – it is biased, practises selective prosecution and is corrupt.
It seems unfair. But board members have accepted the fact that they have to carry the tasks entrusted to them by the leadership.
The board also came under heavy criticism from several of those affected by its “strict action” during the last party elections. The issue was also widely discussed at the last general assembly.
But board chairman, former Umno vice-president and ex-minister Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail has repeatedly said the board conducts its investigation independantlyand does not seek to pleaseanyone iin reaching a decision.
Those punished so far were involved in money politics or had violated the party’s code of conduct “we will act whether the person is a big or a small fish, provide a report is lodge,”says Tengku Rithauddeen.
The establishment of the board,which now has 21 members, came after amendments to the party’s constitution in November 2000.
Its function is to check the spread of money and under unhealthy acts at branch, divisional and national party elections.
“This is all about evidence.We do not act on hearsay.”Says the board’s legal adviser, Mohd Hafarizam Harun.
Since June, after the branch election were completed, the board had receive many reports which has no basis.
Of the 385 reports received so far, 158 has proved baseless.while 135 more needed more evidence.
The board however has yet to receive any formal report about “big fish”in money politics. although there are cases under investigation which would well lead to some of them being implicated.
For reports which have basis, a “Form A” will be sent to the complainant for more evidence. He must also get the chairman of his branch to endorse his membership.
“Some complainants did not respond.We cannot do much if this happens because we need evidence to establish a prima-facie case and send a show-cause letter to the accused person.
“When there is a complaint about candidate organizing a gathering, we need pictures, names of some of these present as they will be called to testify , receipts , etc, to substantiate the claim. We cannot use photocopies of bills as evidence,”says Hafarizam.
For reports with sufficient evidence, a membership check will be done on a complainant. If this is established , a show-cause letter will be sent to the accused person/persons and a tribunal assigned to hear the case.
The three member tribunal, chaired by a board member with a legal background, will call the complainant to determine the merit of his allegation.
The accused person will be called to tell his side of the story. He is also allowed to call witnesses.
When there is a conviction”and”sentence”, the decision will be tabled at a meeting of the five tribunal chairmen .The meeting, chaired by Tengku Rithauddeen, will also be attended by party executive secretary Brig-JenÅ¡ Datuk Husainy Hashim, who is also the board secretaryand legal adviser.
When it reaches this stage, the decision to affirm or reject the conviction and sentence is usually unanimous. The tribunal chairmen, however, are allowed to give their views and make recommendations for change if they feel the decision was unsatisfactory.
The board also has a special tribunal to conduct inquiries into high profile cases. The tribunal comprises the board chairmen and the chairmen of the five tribunals.
Criticism aside, the suspension of 10 member by the board has had an impact. Coffeehouses in hotels are no longer the places to gather for political gossip, no more trips for delegates, and candidates do not go overboardin campaigning for fear of breaching the effecting guidelines, Which could cause them to lose the post they had won.
It is also not wrong to say that money politics has been`”with” Umno for a long time.