PUTRAJAYA: Political parties will have to be transparent on their sources of funding when the 14th general election takes place by 2018.

A national consultative committee has been set up to formulate guidelines on political funding, with the aim of ensuring that funds are sourced with integrity.

In announcing the plan, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak expressed hope the idea would be received by all, including the Opposition.

He also said the decision to set up the committee was not to quell concerns over the RM2.6bil political donation he had allegedly received, pointing out that he had proposed it six years ago.

I have in fact mooted this idea since 2009 and it is on record, Najib said.

I have mentioned this openly several times but it has never received support.

We hope the idea will now be supported by all parties.

If a transparent political funding system is something which they also champion, then the Opposition should work together with us to formulate the guidelines, he said at a press conference at his office yesterday.

The Prime Minister said the initiative was part of the Government Transformation Programme to establish a check and balance mechanism for political parties.

The national consultative committee on political funding has been given a year to come up with the guidelines on the matter and it would be in place in time for the next general election, said Najib.

The guidelines are necessary as there is no benchmark now to determine what is right or wrong when it comes to political funding.

Existing regulations only concern spending during elections, he said.

The committee will be chaired by Minister in the Prime Ministers Department Datuk Paul Low while another minister, Datuk Seri Idris Jala is the deputy, with allocations being provided by the integrity and governance division under the Prime Ministers Department.

Representatives from political parties, community leaders, academicians, thought leaders, civil societies and even youths will be made members of the committee and will consider all aspects of political funding regulations, including institutional changes, monitoring, enforcement and new laws.

The committee will also act as adviser to the Government on issues related to political funding.

When asked why the Opposition was not earlier receptive of his idea to be transparent on financial sources for political activities, Najib said: That you have to ask them. I dont want to second guess why they didnt want to accept the idea.

Asked if there would be a ceiling on the amount which a political party could accept, he said it should be left for the committee to decide what would be the best practice.

Low said the committee would have its first meeting soon and that he and Idris had already started the groundwork.

The Umno supreme council has never asked nor informed of any donation or political contribution in the trustee account of the president or treasurer, said Shahrir Abdul Samad.

Since I have been in the supreme council and Johor Umno liaison committee, the question of donation has never been raised or exposed to the supreme council or liaison committee.

Apart from properties and existing sources of income, the party has trust in the president, state liaison committee chairperson and treasurer to seek financial sources to fund political activities and elections, he was quoted as saying by MyKMU.net.

The Johor Baru MP and BN Backbenchers Club (BNBBC) chief has been a supreme council member since the administration of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Shahrir was responding to the raging debate over the RM2.6 billion deposited into Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razaks personal bank accounts.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said investigations showed the sum was donation from Middle Eastern source, whose identity could not be disclosed.

When the issue erupted, Najib had said he never misused public funds for personal gain.

The tech startup scene is blossoming all around the world, and the Philippines is no exception. With the country dubbed as the second fastest growing economy in Asia, foreign investors are setting their sights on the Philippines, entering into joint ventures with small but promising startups and slowly making the country their production hubs in ASEAN.

Though the Philippine startup scene is young, it isnt devoid of fresh ideas and talented minds. For instance, entrepreneur Aisa Mijeno founded Sustainable Alternative Lighting Corporation (SALt), whose main product is a lamp that runs for eight hours powered by one cup of saltwater. Xurpas Inc., one of the earlier generations of homegrown Philippine tech companies, had its initial public offering last year in the Philippine Stock Exchange.

The Philippines can become a leader in using technology to address emerging market problems, said Earl Valencia, president and founder of the IdeaSpace Foundation, a Manila-based incubator and accelerator program that supports technology entrepreneurs in the country.

Venture capitalists from Japan, Singapore, and the United States are eyeing Philippine tech companies, aiming to use the youthful, tech-savvy, and English-speaking Philippines as a springboard to jump into other emerging markets like Indonesia and India.

Similarly, various foreign business missions from Russia, Egypt, and the Netherlands seem to also be attracted to the country. Foreign investors are actually looking at using the Philippines as a hub for ASEAN that is how PCCI is marketing the Philippines also, said Alfredo Yao, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Among the foreign companies that have already invested in the Philippines include Lenddo, which uses social media to build credit scores for people with no credit history, enabling them to get bank loans for the first time. Considering that 80 percent of Filipinos dont have bank accounts, this could prove to be beneficial for the middle classes.

There is also foreign tech enterprise M6 Ltd., which recently launched the Born2Invest app that delivers 80-word business and finance news summaries from a lineup of trusted financial sources and makes these available in one clutter-free app. Many of its team members are based in Manila. The company is also planning to partner with local media organizations in the delivery of up-to-date financial news.

Were actually here to join venture with you and make sure that your news is being read by the people who matter on the device, said Dom Einhorn, founder and chief marketing officer of M6. We're in a position where we will be able to get you incremental readers for your publication, always crediting the source and making sure that youll be able to capture a good portion of that market share thats rapidly dwindling and falling wayside.

By launching here in the Philippines, M6 plans to make Born2Invest a dominant player in the business news production and syndication space among emerging economies. Within the next six months, the app is expected to be translated to more than 50 languages and break into more than 150 markets.

With a combination of actionable ideas, burgeoning economy, and skilled entrepreneurs, the Philippines is on its way to becoming a true leader in the ASEAN tech startup scene.

Abdul Aziz also called on the Registrar of Societies (RoS) to look carefully into financial sources behind the political parties that it registers.

In an interview with Rudaw, Osman Ocalan, the brother of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, spoke about the PKK and its financial supporters. Osman Ocalan, who has been a notable commander within PKK ranks, said currently the party has $50 million in annual income, which it gains through taxing local and regional merchants and smugglers. Ocalan said some wealthy businessmen in Kurdistan and abroad also help the PKK on a regular basis. He said the person in charge of finances within the party is Mustafa Bayek, the brother of Jamil Bayek, who is a co-leader of the Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK). The KCK is an organization founded by the PKK to put into practice jailed leader Ocalans ideology of democratic confederalism.

Ocalan said the Iraqi Kurdistan-based Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) helps the PKK economically in return for PKK political support through its media. Ocalan denied the party was involved in illicit drug businesses, but said it has been charging drug smugglers, especially those from Armenia and Russia.

Rudaw: How did the PKK finance its armed struggle in the beginning?

Osman Ocalan: As a member of the PKK since the early days, I was aware that people were supporting us economically. Most guerrillas were working to be able to buy a Kalashnikov rifle. I was working too; for two months, just to be able to buy my pistol. All PKK members bought their guns with their own money.

Q: What were the financial sources of the party in the 1980s and 1990s?

A: During that period ordinary people were helping us. And even Kurdish people in Europe were helping us too, especially Kurds in Germany. The PKK had annual fundraising campaigns in Europe. People would give us clothes and food here. This was the way until 1995 when the PKK set up taxation and customs and charged people and businessmen.

Q: In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the PKK was very organized in terms of weapons and military uniforms and had a powerful media outlet. How did the party use the money it received?

A: I was in charge of the PKK activity in Eastern (Iranian) Kurdistan between 1988 and 1992. I was based in the city of Urumia. I remember I borrowed money from a friend of mine to by clothes and make uniforms for the guerrillas.

Q: There are people who claim Iran and Russia were helping the PKK, is there any truth to that?

A: Russia has never sent any economic help and even Iran, which was seen as close to us, did not help us either. On the contrary, Iran sometimes seized some of the equipment and supplies we received from elsewhere.

Q: What about the Syrian government?

A: Syria played a role, especially in terms of movement and transportation in the country. The Syrian government wanted its Kurds to join the PKK and fight Turkey. That is, it fought Turkey through the PKK. Even in terms of financial aid, there were some Syrian groups that supported us in Lebanon. They often supplied us with weapons. Once even the Lebanon communist party helped us.

Q: You were talking about Lebanon; the PKK had military bases in the Beqaa Valley. Were the bases funded by the Palestinians or someone else?

A: Until 1985 the PKK had close relations with the Palestinians. They supported us. Even our food was from them. We had cooperation with all the Palestinian organizations.

Q: From 1995 onwards the PKK had larger economic sources and found new ones. In which part of Kurdistan did it receive the most?

A: As of 1985 until now, the PKK has been holding fundraisers in Europe. Only through those campaigns, $20 million dollars were raised. But also ordinary people were helping the PKK too on a monthly basis, which would be in the neighborhood of $10 million. After 1995, the PKK set up a number of border customs checkpoints which would charge people who moved across the borders between Iraq, Iran and Turkey. Most of the revenues came from South (Iraqi) and Eastern (Iranian) Kurdistan; some $3 million in total, annually. The PKK would impose taxes on merchants and smugglers who moved in the area. Those who were lawful businessmen did not pay that much in taxes, but they paid an amount too. I want to say, some of the wealthy people would help the party voluntarily. And sometimes we visited local people with economic assets and persuaded them to help us and they did.

Q: In Russia and Armenia there are wealthy Kurdish businessmen. Were they helping the PKK voluntarily or were they charged?

A: Some of them were drug dealers. The PKK taxed them and was paid by them. It varied from person to person. But the other ones would help us on their own. The party taxed some companies. Some paid the PKK just to ask us favors. The PKK would not allow them to transport their products if they did not pay the party.

Q: The PKK is frequently accused of being involved in drug-related deals in Europe and the Middle East. How true are these allegations?

A: In the border gates where the party had checkpoints and customs houses, there were people who would smuggle illegal drugs. We just taxed them. The bulk of the smuggling of drugs was between Eastern (Iranian) Kurdistan and Northern (Turkey) Kurdistan. But the PKK has never been engaged in drug dealing. It does not use drugs either. In 1991 a party member named Qadir tried to join some drug smugglers and make money for the party. When I found out I ordered he be jailed for a month and did not let him do that.

Q: This means that no one has been engaged in drug affairs?

A: What can I say? There is no evidence of that. Guerrillas often smoke cigarettes and drink tea.

Q: How did the money change hands? What roles did the banks play?

A: Banks played no role. It was our own guerrillas or our supporters who would carry the money to us in the mountains.

Q: Does the PKK have an investment project or factories?

A: In Western (Syrian) Kurdistan, Rojava, we have had some factories. In Afrin the party had an olive factory. Even in Europe and Syria the party has a number of factories which are in the hands of PKK supporters. These are revenue sources.

Q: Who is in charge of the financial affairs in the party?

A: At the moment it is Mustafa Bayik, the brother of Cemil Bayik; he is in charge of that. He administers all PKK assets on Mount Qandil.

Q: Is there financial corruption in the PKK?

A: Generally there is no corruption within the PKK, but there could be people who are corrupted. In general terms though, no, there is none.

Q: How large is the PKKs annual income?

A: It is a bit different now than in the past, since the PKK struggle is more comprehensive now. I think it has $50 million in annual revenue.

Q: How were PKK media outlets established? Who played the key roles?

A: The late Bahce Camturk and Savas Buldan, who was the husband of Parvin Buldan, now a member of the Turkish parliament. These two individuals had an enormous impact on PKK media. Daily papers, Med TV and the Ulke newspaper were established by them. They were wealthy and had wealthy people around them. They were raising funds for the party. They were both killed because they helped the PKK.

Q: Are there any economic ties between the PKK and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) or Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)?

A: The PKK has no good relations with the KDP, but it has good contacts with the PUK. The PUK has aided the PKK with $20 million since the start of the war against the Islamic State. Mulla Bakhtiar and Hero Ibrahim Ahmad have had a major role in that. The KDP has also helped the PKK, but not as much.

Q: How does the sale of oil in Rojava take place and what happens to the revenue?

A: I have no knowledge about oil in Rojava and have no idea how it is managed.

Q: Why did the PKK blast the Kurdistan pipeline? Do you think it will happen again?

A: [Kurdistan Region Prime Minister] Nechirvan Barzani commented on PKK-Turkish relations just days before the blast. The PKK on Mount Qandil criticized Barzanis comments. The blast was in reaction to that comment. I dont think the PKK will blast the Kurdistan pipeline again, because they will harm their public support very much if they do.