Lim Kit Siang: Ijok money-politics and electoral corruption – worst in 50 years of by-elections

In a Mingguan Malaysia interview yesterday, the Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman challenged the general perception that the Election Commission is not fair, independent and transparent in the discharge of its constitutional mandate to conduct elections.Rashid is defending the indefensible as the Election Commission’s record is a history of unmitigated and abysmal failure to conduct free, fair, transparent and clean elections and the “sins” of the Election Commission are long and ignominous.

How can the Election Commission claim to have conducted fair and transparent elections in the past and the present when such blemishes as the following continue unaddressed:
• Opposition parties not allowed to send polling agents to supervise the casting of postal ballots by members of the police and security forces to ensure free and fair casting of votes.
• The huge presence of “phantom” voters.
• Inability to ensure a comprehensive and inclusive electoral roll with the highest possible percentage of eligible voters on the electoral register as there are at present 4.9 million eligible but unregistered voters.
• Prohibit unfair, dishonest and one-sided media coverage, whether print , radio or television during the election campaigns, such as “below-the-belt” and unethical cartoons, write-ups, broadcasts and telecasts and the “fear and scare” advertisements against the Opposition.
• Prohibit money politics, not only by candidates but also by political parties.
• Prohibit abuse of government resources and funds during election campaigns.
• The short election campaign period which is invariably decided by the Prime Minister when he dissolved Parliament, when this should be the exclusive responsibility of the Election Commission to ensure a “free, fair and clean” election.
• The abuses by the “caretaker” government in allocating funds and giving election promises with regard to development projects, or abuses of power by Ministers of the “caretaker” government in misappropriating public funds for party election campaigning, such as travelling and other misuse of public resources.
Electoral abuses, making a mockery of any claim to clean, free and fair elections, reach a new height in the recent Machap and the current Ijok by-elections, particularly in the tsunami of money politics to buy votes.
The Alor Gajah District Officer, Hashim Ismail, who was the returning officer of the Machap by-election, yesterday revealed that RM30 million of development projects were poured into the constituency during the two-week campaign period.
With 9,623 voters in Machap, this worked out to RM3,000 of development benefits for each voter as a result of the by-election, although it will be worth a full investigation by the Anti-Corruption Agency as to the “leakage” of the RM30 million development funds – as to what percentage actually reached the voters and not hijacked by cronies and proxies, whether it is 50%, 60%, 70% or higher.
However, this RM30 million channeling of development funds is not the sole item of expenditures for the Barisan Nasional candidate, as there were also expenses incurred by the candidate and the astronomical sums incurred by the Barisan Nasional and its component parties.
The election law limits the maximum expenditure permissible for a candidate in a state assembly election to RM100,000, which had been exceeded by easily some 400 fold in the Machap by-election.
The Ijok by-election is even worse in terms of money politics with the Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Khir Toyo announcing RM36 million for various development projects for the constituency even before nomination. With the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak acting as Santa Claus announcing “freebies” all over the constituency everyday, the total development funds poured into Ijok may double if not treble Khir Toyo’s initial announcement.
Together with the monies poured in by the Barisan Nasional and its component parties in the by-election campaign, will the total expenditures on behalf of the BN candidate touch RM100 million – which would break by over 1,000 times the law limiting election expenditure to RM100,000? But again the pertinent question is what percentage of such RM100 million would finally reach the voters and not hijacked halfway by cronies and proxies?
Why is the Election Commission Chairman keeping totally silent with regard to such flagrant disregard of the election law. Ask any person or even a student will know that this is money politics to buy votes except Rashid. Is the Election Commission prepared to establish its independence, professionalism and commitment to its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean elections by speaking out against the worst case of money politics in 50 years in the history of by-elections in Ijok?