A BN win means we rubber stamp corruption

By Mariam Mokhtar, Free Malaysia Today

On March 6, the people of Kerdau and Merlimau went to the polls to choose their new parliamentary representatives and by the end of the day, the expected BN win did not surprise anyone. Despite BN’s self-praise and messages of congratulations heaped onto each other, the BN win is a shallow victory, not that BN will recognise it as such.

The credibility of the results has come under serious challenge. Wasn’t there ‘clear and convincing evidence of fraud’? Were there other voting irregularities? We know from past reports that Malaysia’s elections are not fair – just like what happened at Kerdau and Merlimau.

It is well known that BN’s bribery, and abuse of government machinery and resources, can and does influence voting.

There were unsubstantiated reports at the previous by-election in Tenang, which was conducted during heavy rains and flooding, that army lorries and boats were used to ferry voters in BN strongholds to the polling stations.

This offer of transport was an abuse of the system. Moreover, free transport was not offered to residents in opposition controlled areas.

Instead of the serious business of government, BN pandered to the electorate’s wishes. Perhaps the opposition would have done the same except it lacks the financial resources and logistical manpower to compete with BN. BN on the other hand, was unashamed in its use of the government machinery.

The Election Commission (EC) has specific laws to combat corrupt electoral practices, electoral offences, money and manpower, misuse of government power and machinery, and complaints with the existing electoral system.

By-elections in Malaysia provide booming economies albeit for the duration of the campaign period. Kerdau and Merlimau witnessed what could perhaps be described as a carnival atmosphere.

Just about every other night on the campaign trail was party time, with free dinners and lucky-draw prizes. There was large scale catering for the political kenduris in Malay areas. Where there was a concentration of non-Malays, outside caterers were ferried in and they brought along their lucky-draw prizes of motorbikes. There was a very visible presence of the dubious 1Malaysia NGO whose funding and relationship with the BN coalition is a secret.

Najib’s inducement to voters

Ummi Hafilda Ali, glamour-queen or gutter-queen, depending on voter’s political affiliation, provided the live sex-talk-cum-political-entertainment.

Public places such as the following were freely made use of: the public field in Teluk Sentang, mosques and schools in Batu Sawar, the community hall in Jengka 23 Felda, the broadband centre for Jengka 25, the community hall in Kuala Tekal and the Felda office in Kerdau.

Despite complaints being made to the EC, its chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said that he was unsure if campaign practices had flouted election laws.

Way back in the Sibu by-election, Abdul Aziz would not declare if Prime minister Najib Tun Razak’s “you help me, I help you” remark, made during campaigning in Sibu had broken the law.

In Kerdau and Merlimau, Najib made the infamous saying, “We don’t buy votes, but if you support us we can increase your allocation tomorrow or later. But show support for Barisan Nasional first”.

Besides that, he had on offer RM400,000 for a hall in Kampong Seri Kerdau, RM150,000 for a Balai Bomba, RM100,000 for Hindu Temple and RM9.25millions on a water treatment plant in Batu Sawar.

The election watchdog, Bersih 2.0 chief Ambiga Sreenevasan said that Najib’s “you help me, I help you” remark, came under section 10 of Election Offences Act 1954 (EOA), which means that the remark was as an inducement to voters during campaigning.

In addition to Najib’s ‘generosity’, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Ahmad Maslan announced that the federal government would settle the cess payment of RM13,000 for each settler in Jengka 22 the Monday after the Sunday by-election (Cess payments are monies deducted from the sale of rubber for the purpose of replanting rubber plantations with oil palm.)

Transparency International (TI) Malaysia has said that the EC should define election corruption so that everyone would understand the exact definition.

Its president, Paul Low said that the election expenditure cap for candidates, is RM200,000 for a parliamentary seat and RM100,000 for a state seat According to Low, this has never been enforced by the EC.

Something is not right

If Malaysians expect the EC to investigate or censure the various political parties, they will be disappointed.

Abdul Aziz has already said that he rejected any proposal to expand the EC’s powers, saying the commission is “not Superman” to take up all tasks.

His preference is to limit the EC’s main duties to managing and organising elections, preparing and revising the electoral roll and reviewing constituency boundaries – most people call that gerrymandering.

In other words, the rôle of the EC is reduced to the removal of illegal and derogatory banners, during campaigning. This job could easily be done by the local town council’s road-sweepers – no need for an expensive EC and EC chairman.