Punish election violators

TRANSPARENCY International-Malaysia (TI-M) urges the Election Commission (EC), the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the police to take action against any political party and its members found to be using inducement to buy votes in the Cameron Highlands parliamentary by-election.

Officials and personnel from these enforcement agencies should monitor the campaign activities of the candidates and their agents to ensure that no one violates the rules, regulations and ethics of election campaigning.

Particular attention must be given to activities which are deemed vote-buying and action must be taken against any offender under the Election Offences Act 1954 (EOA), the MACC Act 2009 or the Penal Code.

Even before nomination date and the official campaign period started in Cameron Highlands, MACC has revealed that allegations of corruption have surfaced. They include holding events where food and drinks are provided and giving contributions which are offences under EOA.

The change of government in May does not seem to have brought the expected changes to the way political parties conduct their election campaigning. In the recently concluded Port Dickson by-election, election monitoring group Bersih observed 10 election offences committed by candidates.

Election offences were also reported during the Sungai Kandis by-election in August and the Seri Setia and Balakong by-elections a few months back.

EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun had lamented the commission’s lack of powers to act against candidates who violate election laws.

TI-M is of the view that while the laws can be strengthened, they have provisions for EC and enforcement agencies to take action where evidence exists. For example, Under Section 15A of EOA, a candidate must record all expenses incurred during an event, and that a candidate’s spending limit is RM200,000.

Did all candidates comply with this limit based on information and evidence provided? Inducement is a violation of the law and under Section 10 of the EOA and can be deemed to be bribery under the MACC Act 2009.

The offences amounting to corrupt practices is provided for under sections 8 (treating), 9 (undue influence), 10 (bribery) of the EOA.

It covers direct and indirect acts committed to induce people to vote or refrain from voting.

Under Section 8 of the EOA, candidates who corruptly provides treats such as food, drinks or refreshment, provision, money or tickets shall be guilty of treating.

Section 9 of the EOA refers to corrupt practices by placing undue influence on voters.

Orang Asli Senator Bob Manolan Mohd’s reported statements that Tok Batin in Cameron Highlands could lose their salaries and post if they did not support the federal government, if true, may breach Section 9 of the act.

With reference to Section 10 of the EOA (bribery), a person is guilty of an offence if anyone commits direct or indirect vote-buying such as giving or offering money, gift, employment, office, place or loan before, during or after an election.

All of the above sections of the EOA cover not only the candidate, but anyone liable to commit these offences.

There should be zero tolerance of money politics from both sides of the political divide.

The above examples show that our laws, especially against corrupt activities during election campaigning, must be enforced and seen to be enforced against all persons and parties practising such acts.

Otherwise, the credibility of EC, enforcement agencies and the election process will be called into question.

The misuse of official power and machinery in by-elections by political parties should be banned.

TI-M calls on candidates and their supporters to conduct their campaigning within the scope of the law, and for enforcement agencies to enforce laws and protect our democratic process to allow for a free, clean, fair and credible Cameron Highlands by-election. Otherwise, our cry for a “Malaysia Baru” will ring hollow.

Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar, President, Transparency International Malaysia

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Make the corrupt pay the price

ACCORDING to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act, corruption or bribery is the act of giving or receiving gratification or reward in cash or in kind for performing a task in relation to someone’s job.

An example is a contractor giving an expensive watch to a government official in return for awarding a project to the former’s company.

There are four offences relating to bribery and corruption as set out in the act.

FIRST, soliciting or receiving gratification (bribe) under Sections 16 and 17(a) of the act, which is the common scenario of a person or agent soliciting or receiving gratification or bribe as an inducement for performing or not performing a task.

An example is a court case where former Kangar Municipal Council president Baharudin Ahmad was charged with soliciting and receiving a bribe from a contractor of a 4ha housing development in Padang Besar, Perlis.

In return, he promised to approve as well as ensure the smooth running of the project.

The bribe received from the contractor was RM30,000 cash, RM30,000 in cash cheque and a Mizuno golf set worth RM2,500.

The court, after finding him guilty of the offence, jailed him for four years and fined him RM1.92 million.

SECONDLY, the offering or giving of gratification, which falls under Section 17(b) of the act, which is the scenario of a person or agent offering or giving gratification or bribe as an inducement for performing, or not performing, a task in relation to the official duty of a civil service officer.

One example was a case in Sibu where a contractor was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment and fined RM25,000 for giving a bribe of RM1,500 to one Sandum Hitam, who was with the Sibu District Forestry Office.

The bribe was to expedite the application process for the “permit to enter coupe”.

THIRDLY, the case of intending to deceive (false claim), which is the offence under Section 18 of the act.

Section 18 states that “any person providing documents such as receipts or invoices that are false or contain false details with the intention to deceive the principal (office)” commits an offence.

An example of this offence occurred when Datuk Md Saberi Md, ex-dean of the Faculty of Sports Science and Recreation of Universiti Teknologi Mara in Shah Alam, was sentenced to three years’ jail and fined RM10,000 by the Sessions Court for acknowledging a false invoice for the supply of sports equipment worth RM138,600 in 1999.

The goods were never delivered.

LASTLY, under Section 23 of the act, it is an offence to abuse one’s power or use one’s office or position for gratification.

Abuse of power takes place when a person, who is a member of a public body, uses his position or the office in making a decision, or taking action for the benefit of himself, his relative or associate.

The general penalty for any corruption-related offence in the act is imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the sum or value of the gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The punishment for cases involving corruption should be reviewed to provide for heavier sentences as existing penalties have no effect on offenders.

Heavier penalties are called for in view of the threat of corruption plaguing our country.

DATUK AKHBAR SATAR,

President, Transparency International Malaysia

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