Goodies roll in … from all sides

Beh Lih Yi | Aug 19, 08 (Malaysiakini)
More election goodies rolled in for the people of Permatang Pauh on the fourth day of the by-election campaign. But this time it was not from Barisan Nasional (BN) alone.
It raised the questions as to whether this flouted election laws which clearly stipulate that an election candidate is prohibited from handing out goodies as it could be deemed as a vote-buying attempt.
During a function held at a Chinese school in Kampung Sungai Lembu this afternoon, Deputy Education Minister Dr Wee Ka Siong announced an allocation of RM200,000 for the school.
The allocation came on top of another RM1 million allocation to five Chinese schools in the constituency announced during his visit last week.
Also present at the function this afternoon were BN candidate Arif Shah Omar Shah and Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai, who is also MCA Youth chief.
Apart from the Chinese schools, Wee also announced another sum of RM50,000 each for two Tamil schools in Butterworth which do not fall under the Permatang Pauh constituency.
Aid for flood victims
A flash flood reported in several areas in Permatang Pauh yesterday also paved the way for election campaign teams to hand out goodies to those affected.
Earlier today, Arif Shah gave out RM1,000 to Teh Soo Chair, 44, whose wife and daughter went missing after they fell into a flooded monsoon drain in Tanah Liat.
The body of his daughter was recovered this afternoon while the search for his wife continues.
In handing out the cash, the BN candidate stressed that he was giving the money in his capacity as the head of an NGO known as the People’s Welfare Association.
“No need to take photographs, I just give him (the money) will do,” he told reporters, before asking his assistant to give the money on his behalf.
Asked whether this flouted election laws, Arif Shah – who is also the Seberang Jaya state assemblyperson – argued that it has been a practice to give out such aid.
“The money is not from me, it’s from the NGO. It’s just a coincidence that I am the chair (of the organisation),” he said.
Rice packets and hampers from PKR
On the PKR front, Anwar Ibrahim made an impromptu visit to Kampung Jalan Baru in Seberang Jaya, where some 100 households were affected by the flash flood.
During his brief visit, the opposition leader made a few stops at some houses and visited the affected families.
After he left, a team led by the party’s Kedah chief senator Zamri Yusuf handed out rice packets and hampers to the families amounting to about RM6,000. However, no cash was given.
Zamri told reporters that the aid was from a donation drive initiated by party members after the incident yesterday.
Also present was PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. The former MP for Permatang Pauh said this was not an unusual practice as she used to give out such aid in her capacity as a parliamentarian before.
A check with the locals however revealed that they have not received such aid before, apart from a sum of RM300 they had allegedly received from Arif Shah during the 2004 general election.
Anwar launches election slogan
Earlier today, Anwar launched his election slogan called ‘merdekakan rakyat’ (independence for the people) at an event held in Seberang Jaya witnessed by about 200 supporters.
Standing on a lorry and against the backdrop of a huge board carrying the words ‘this country does not belongs to Umno or BN, it belongs to the rakyat,’ Anwar appealed to the voters to make the right choice.
The opposition leader said somebody asked him why he chose the slogan since the country had gained independence 50 years ago.
“I said the independence is not for ministers or son-in-laws, it should be for the people,” he told the audience. He then led the crowd in chanting ‘merdeka’ three times.
At a press conference later, he said Pakatan Rakyat will review projects which do not benefit the rakyat should it come into power.
As examples, he cited the RM15.2 billion high-speed broadband service project announced recently, the double-tracking railway and the undersea cable projects.
“(These projects are awarded) at a time when people complain of suffering and when the economy is not picking up, they (the leaders) are losing their sense of priority,” he said.