Arif Shah admits breaking election law?

22 Aug 2008
BN candidate in the Permatang Pauh by election Arif Shah Omar Shah yesterday admitted the BN machinery has been giving RM100 to RM 500 to the locals. While he claimed that the money was payment for “intelligence work” and not to buy vote, he might have unwittingly admitted his commission of an “illegal practice” under Section 21 of the Election Offences Act 1954.
This is the partial translation of the headline story on today (August 22) Sin Chew Daily titled “Arif Shah: Employing Locals As Campaign Workers; BN PAYS INTELLIGENCE FEES, NOT BUYING VOTES”:
(Butterworth, August 21) BN candidate in the Permatang Pauh by-election Datuk Arif Shah admited that the BN election machinery had been giving away money in the constituency, but that was “intelligence fee”, not the money to buy votes.
He said, BN gave money to the locals to employ some of them to be campaign workers, but others who were not arranged to help in campaign would be listed as BN’s “covert intelligence agents”.
He said, BN employs a large number of intelligence agents as getting the intelligence about the local people was very important to BN winning the by-election.
After attending the celebration of 25th Anniversary of the Penang Regional Development Agency, Arif Shah said so in response to questions regarding Anwar’s statement that the latter would complain to the Election Commissions regarding BN giving away money in Permatang Pauh.
Asked why some people did not know what happened after receiving money, Arif Shah explained that the persons in-charge of the BN campaigning team would later contact them to ask for information after recording their addresses and telephone numbers.
He stressed that Anwar’s allegation was unreliable and false because BN did not use money to buy votes.
He said, voting was secretive. As no one could control whom the voters would vote for, therefore BN was not stupid enough to buy votes, since that was not possible.
Distributing RM 100-RM 500 to campaign workers
He also admitted that BN distributed RM 100 to RM 500 in cash to campaign workers. The payments were made according to the size of the areas in-charge and the type of transport used. ….
Now, Section 21of the Election Offences Act 1954 categorically prohibits employment of anyone “for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of a candidate at any election” except for one election agent, one polling agent per polling station and “a reasonable number of clerk and messengers“. (See below for the full text of the Section.)
Also, remember that a parliamentary candidate cannot spend more than RM 200,000 under Section 19 of the same Act. (see below for full text of the Section).
Now, three things are clear:
1. There is no provision for intelligence work. Clerk and messengers are intelligence agents.
2. The “large number” of recipients clearly go beyond “a reasonable number”.
3. The expense of “intelligence fees” may easily exceed the legal cap of RM 200,000 (which is enough for only 400 “intelligence agents” if each is paid RM 500).
In more than one way, Arif Shah might have committed an illegal practice, which may cause him to be fined RM 5000 and disqualified from voting and being elected. (Section 27)
Shouldn’t someone do something now?
Excerpts of the Election Offences Act 1954:
Expenses in excess of maximum to be illegal practice
19.(1) Subject to such exception as may be allowed in pursuance of this Act, no sum shall be paid and no expense shall be incurred by a candidate at an election or by his election agent, after the date of publication of the notice of the election in the Gazette, during or after an election, on account of or in respect of the conduct or management of such election, in excess of-
(a) two hundred thousand ringgit in the case of an election to the Dewan Rakyat;
(b) one hundred thousand ringgit in the case of an election to a Legislative Assembly;
(c) ten thousand ringgit in the case of an election to a local authority other than a local council;
(d) three thousand ringgit in the case of an election to a local council:
Provided that paragraphs (c) and (d) shall have no application in Sabah and Sarawak.
(2) Any candidate or election agent who knowingly acts in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an illegal practice.
Certain employment to be illegal
21.(1) No person shall, for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of a candidate at any election, be engaged or employed for payment or promise of payment for any purpose or in any capacity whatever, except for the purpose or in the capacities following:
(a)one election agent and no more;
(b)not more than one polling agent at any one time for each polling area or polling district:
Provided that where more than one polling station is provided in any polling area or polling district, an additional polling agent may be employed in respect of each polling station; and
(c) a reasonable number of clerks and messengers having regard to the area of the constituency or electoral ward and the number of electors on the register or list of electors for such constituency or electoral ward.
(2) Subject to such exception as may be allowed in pursuance of this Act, if any person is engaged or employed in contravention of this section, either before, during, or after an election, the person engaging or employing him shall be guilty of an illegal practice.
Punishment for conviction for illegal practise
27 (1) Every person who commits an illegal practice shall, on conviction by a Sessions Court, be liable to a fine of five thousand ringgit and, subject to any specific provision to the contrary in any written law relating to any election, shall by conviction become incapable of being registered or listed as an elector or of voting at any election under this Act or of being elected at any election, and if at that date he has been elected at any election, his seat shall be vacated from the date of such conviction.
(2) A prosecution for an illegal practice shall not be instituted without the sanction of the Public Prosecutor.