Press release (29th March, 2019) Has the Miri MP Committed the Election Offence of Treating?

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) refers to the Bernama report as carried by MalaysiaKini on 28th March with the title “Five Rantau schools gets free food coupons from Miri MP.” 

It was reported that food coupons amounting to RM75,000 were given to 300 underprivileged students from five schools in the Rantau by-election constituency. The Miri MP, YB Michael Teo further added that he did this at the request of Dr S Streram, the prospective PH candidate for the by-election. Streram was present when the coupons were distributed.

Bersih 2.0 wishes to point out that Section 8 of the Election Offences Act 1954 (EOA) clearly states that it is an election offence of treating for anyone to give food, drink, refreshment, provision, money, ticket or any other means for the purpose of corruptly influencing any person to vote at an election. Section 8, along with other sections of the EOA on promotion of ill-will and hostility, undue influence and bribery, begins with the phrase “before, during and after an election.”

Bersih 2.0 would suggest that the interpretation of “before an election” means before the Nomination Day and thus it would be reasonable that the starting period for election offences to be committed, to be from the moment a seat is declared vacant or when Parliament or State Assembly is dissolved.

The Rantau state seat was declared vacant on 26th February after the Federal Court dismissed incumbent Mohamad Hasan’s appeal. Since everyone already knew for sure that the by-election will be carried out from that point, it would be reasonable to assume that all unscheduled political activities that are carried out in the constituency are done for the purpose of fishing for votes, especially so with Dr. Steram in attendance, who was announced as Pakatan Harapan’s candidate for the Rantau state seat.

Bersih 2.0 is of the opinion that all form of treating, undue influence, bribery and promotion of ill-will and hostility from the point a seat is vacated, constitute an election offence. Thus, it is our view that the ection offence of treating was committed by the Miri MP in this instance.

Nonetheless, it is entirely up to the relevant authorities to act on such alleged offences and for the Court to interpret the election law. Bersih 2.0 urge the Election Commission to take all necessary steps for redress and ensure that all parties adhere to the EOA.

With the official Campaign period about to start tomorrow, Bersih 2.0 calls on all parties and candidates to adhere not just to the letter of the law but also to the spirit of the EOA, which is, elections must be free, clean and fair. It is our hope that with the Rantau by-election, we will see a reversal of the upward trend in offences committed in the past six by-elections since GE14.

Statement issued by:

Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0