BERSIH calls for law on Administrative Neutrality

Press Statement
6 November 2007

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) calls for an Act of Administrative Neutrality to criminalize any attempts to abuse administrative power, procedures and resources to pursue partisan interests. Such a law shall prevent caretaker governments from utilising state machinery during the election period as well as partisan acts by law enforcement units all year round.

Administrative neutrality is what distinguishes a democracy from a one-party state or an authoritarian regime. The civil and security service of the country must serve only the national interest, not the partisan interest of the ruling party. Even the government of the day cannot abuse the state resource and power mandated for its own gains.
With regard to general elections, the proposed law shall also limit the power of the caretaker government. Once Parliament or the state legislative assembly is dissolved, the outgoing government is only a caretaker and shall have no power to make any substantial decisions (eg. development-related ones). Election-specific expenditure is a form of corruption, defined as the use of public office for personal gain, but unfortunately not covered by the existing Anti-Corruption Act.
The law shall cover any by-elections in a similar manner, once a parliamentary or state legislative seat is vacant and in need of a by-election, governments at all levels are not allowed to make or deliver any development projects, except when all candidates are invited and given equal opportunity to take credit. This will prevent the repetition of the scandalous “RM36-million buy-election” in Ijok.
The law shall also outlaw acts by any state employee, whether in the civil service, police or military, to advance the partisan interests of any political group or individual. Individuals or organizations who try to coerce or induce state employees to do so will also be prosecuted.
BERSIH is glad that Kuala Lumpur City police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Zulhasnan Najib Baharudin has denied the report in The Star that he has outright rejected any application and threatened to arrest any demonstrator who shows up on Saturday. Any police officer must respect the Federal Constitution, Article 10(1)(b) of which states that “all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms”.
A law on administrative neutrality will allow citizens to lodge complaints and seek investigation by an independent body if the any state agency has acted, independently or under undue influence of others, in a partisan manner.
BERSIH urges members of public to wear yellow from today till the coming Saturday to signal their desire and determination for electoral reforms, which are part and parcel of a wider end-all-corruption campaign.