EC should not be hands-off over rampant bribery

Written by Kim Quek (CPI Asia)
At long last, we have a righteous leader who is boldly initiating legal action to rein in the notorious Malaysian electoral system which has virtually gone berserk.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leader Zaid Ibrahim, who lost narrowly to a Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate in the dirtiest and most corrupt electoral contest in memory, is taking a three-prong thrust to rectify the unprecedented electoral degradation as exhibited in the freshly concluded Hulu Selangor by-election.
In addition to seeking nullification of the election, he is also taking the unprecedented step of suing the Election Commission (EC) for breach of the Constitution – its dereliction of duty and political partisanship. Further, he will sue the Umno-controlled newspaper Utusan Malaysia for waging a vilification campaign against him.
The election was marred by intimidation, tampering of electoral roll, character assassination and rampant corruption with the EC and police obviously siding BN. In fact the bribery was so bad – openly soliciting votes with millions of ringgit of public funds over countless projects – that Zaid called Prime Minister Najib Razak, who spearheaded the campaign, as “shameless and unprecedented”.
Against these flagrant violations of election laws and rules, EC remained mute. Faced with mounting post-election criticism, EC chairman Aziz Yusof was quoted in the Sin Chew Press (April 29) as having said:
“Nabbing [the culprits involved in] corruption is not our specialization. Our job is to provide a level-playing field for electoral contests. However, we still welcome complaints from those who possess the details.
“If the project concerned was pre-planned and was coincidentally implemented in the election period, it is not bribery. The important criterion is that at the time of granting the allocation, whether the electorate were asked for their votes as trade-off. Another problem is: since voting is secret, how do we know whether the recipient of election goodies did actually cast his vote in favour of the giver?
“Pakatan Rakyat has won 7 times out of the past 10 by-elections held since the last general election, but still complained of EC favouring BN. I hope participants should realize that winning an election is because of the people’s support, and not due to the ‘help’ given by EC.”
The above statement seems to be a mouthful of nonsense.
One can rule out the possibility of ‘pre-planning’ and ‘coincidence’ in timing, due to the great number and size of grants and projects and the short span of time during which these were announced.
The solicitations for electoral support during the announcement of these goodies were open and witnessed by thousands. Whether the recipient of goodies cast his vote in favour of the giver is irrelevant to the issue of corruption. And finally, the fact that Pakatan has won more times than BN is no indication that EC does not favour BN.
It is shocking that the EC chairman should have given such illogical and phony excuses to cover up the utter and sinister failure of the EC.
The powers of the EC
The most publicized bribery committed by Najib was his encounter with the Rasa electorate on the eve of polling which was held on April 25. He told the folks that if BN wins, he would personally grant RM3 million to the Rasa Chinese primary school the next day and the money would be transferred to the school board’s bank account. He added: “If we lose, don’t have to come.”
This news was reported in the press and the Internet, and Najib has never denied it.
What more evidence does EC want before it is willing to spring into action?
This single incident alone was sufficient to have Najib convicted for bribery under Section 10 of the Election Offences Act 1954, the punishment for which under Section 11 is maximum jail of two years and fine of RM5,000, in addition to being barred from elections for five years.
EC often laments that it has no investigative power and that it is no expert on corruption, but may I remind it of its powers and duties under Section 5 of Elections Act 1958.
For its duties, the Act states that EC “shall exercise control and supervision over the conduct of elections ……, and shall enforce on the part of all election officers fairness, impartiality and compliance with Part VIII of the Constitution and this Act and regulations made hereunder”.
For its powers, the Act state that EC “shall have powers to issue to election officers such direction as may be deemed necessary by the Commission to ensure effective execution of Part VIII of the Constitution and this Act ….” It also has power to administer any regulations and perform any duties as conferred and imposed upon it by the Act.
Granted that EC may not have the same expertise and resources that the MACC has when it comes to catching the corrupt, but that does not mean that EC should take a hands-off policy over rampant bribery thus abdicating its role as arbiter of free and fair elections.
Worse, EC was found to have played partisan politics by unjustifiably changing polling stations for one quarter of the electorate without proper notice and depriving another chunk of the electorate of their voting rights by unconstitutionally moving them to another constituency.
The ruling BN has played dirty politics in every election for the past five decades, and our electoral system has now descended to the point that it is now making a complete mockery of the fundamental premise of our Constitution – that the government shall be decided by the free will of the citizens.
Allowing the culprits who caused the fiasco of the Hulu Selangor by-election to walk away unscathed would be to condone these criminal acts and surrender the most important rights of the people.
It is hence the duty of every citizen to stand up and claim for his right now by giving full support to Zaid Ibrahim in his noble attempt to restore some decency to our fallen electoral process.