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

Read the original posting here