GPS Should Stop Abusing State Resources for Campaigning

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Election (BERSIH) urge Caretaker Chief Minister (CM) Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg to immediately stop using the position to campaign by announcing projects and allocations, officiating government events and signing memorandum of understanding (MoU) on behalf of the state government for any projects.

This also includes former ministers from the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) who are also contesting in the Sarawak State Election. The Sarawak State Secretary need to immediately issue instructions to state government employees to prohibit them from being involved or assisting the GPS campaign by using state government machinery and resources including the use of state-owned printed media and social media.

Though the Caretaker government rules or guidelines  is not yet codified in the law including Election Offences Act, but the use of state resources and machineries including announcements by the caretaker government is in violation with caretaker convention such as that upheld by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Declaration  which states that the State should take necessary steps to ensure separation of party and State, and Article 11 of the Bangkok Declaration that asserts State resources used to promote political interest during the election can cause unfair election process and the legitimacy of election result can be called into question. 

From Pemantau BERSIH observation in Sarawak, we find that there are abundance of abuse of state resources and machineries by the former minister and Caretaker CM for their political interest. They are shamelessly are using the government machinery to campaign, and even the federal government still invites the Caretaker CM to attend federal government events. 

For example, on 12 December 2021, N26 Gedong candidate for GPS, Abang Johari who also the Caretaker CM had launched the “Majlis Pelancaran Gedong Sebagai Daerah” event(1) in a hall located in Gedong town. The event was also attended by State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion. The event organized by the state government has clearly become a campaigning platform for the N26 Gedong candidate and is an abuse of government resources to campaign for the benefit of the party as well as certain candidates.

On November 30, Caretaker CM Abang Johari had announced that Sarawak State Government will launch their own airlines for tourism and agriculture during ground-breaking cermony for Bebuling Airport that estimated to be completed by 2023 with the cost of RM108.1 million(2). This announcement will bind political parties or coalition who are the incoming Sarawak government.

Candidates who are incumbents for State seats are also still giving out government grants to community leaders. For example, the incumbent of DUN N31 Bukit Begunan and still contesting as a candidate, has given out government grant amounting to RM50,000 (3).

State government machinery including social media sites have also been used as a platform to communicate the election campaigns of GPS parties. We found that Facebook pages and State Government websites such as the Sarawak Public Communications Unit (UKAS) set up under the Chief Minister’s Department had been used to campaign for GPS. Programs and announcements by the Caretaker CM and former ministers are still being featured on social media posts (4) and the UKAS website (5).

BERSIH reminds  that elections must be clean and fair so that all candidates and political parties can campaign on a level playing field. The use of government machinery and resources to campaign is totally unacceptable as it means that the people’s tax monies has been used to campaign for the benefit of certain candidates and political parties only. After the dissolution of the DUN, the State Secretary should issue a directive to prohibit the use of government resources and machinery by any party, especially the incumbent party. BERSIH also urged the SPR to act more proactively and strictly to address the issue of misuse of government resources and machinery to ensure that the campaign is fairer.

Released by:

The Steering Committee of BERSIH