The election culture in the rests of Malaysia will invade Sarawak irrespective of how some Sarawakian politicians claim that they want to keep away from it. The debate on Najib’s `you help me, I help you’ offer continue unabated-with Bersih spokeperson affirming that the offer is corruption while Transparency International Malaysia’s Paul Low insisting that so long that there is no money changing hand at the time there remain only an election promise. Let’s look at some the points raised more closely:
a. The Election Offenses Act prohibit corruption which is defined in 4 ways, among which is gifting `before, during and after’ the voting. It thus cover future offer of a `gift’.
b. Anti-corruption Act also prohibit corruption as in inducement, even including attempt to do so. So it does not depend on how successful was the inducement.
c. Another angle is: the promise was made on behalf of some government body/budget to address a supposed public issue. The money to be made is from the PM department of some other government body-and it is used to fish for votes. This is an abuse of power which is another prohibition under the Anti-Corruption Act;
d. Free and fair elections, as required under Federal Constitution, demands that any public allocations that could potentially sway votes in 1 way or other be stopped well in advance of any elections eg 3 months for Philippines presidential elections; In the Philippines case it prohibit announcement of any new projects, calling for and awarding of tender, giving away benefits eg land titles etc. Election Commission do have the sole mandate to enforce this -but it had failed to do so;
How about the claim that the offers are mere election promisies? A few other points arise:
e. The makers of these promises, at the material time of them on a party campaign platform, are merely party campaigners, no matter what other positions they hold in government. If they claim to speak on behalf of a government post they would be erring on point (c) above;
As a party person eg UMNO president, they simply don’t have any budget to give away!
e. It has also been raised that the election regulations only restrict the candidates and their appointed agents-thus do not apply to any other parties. This argument ignore the fact that if the election involves the competition centering on the candidates and agents then no other parties should be allowed to play roles which noticeably influence the results of the election; under requirement of free and fair election-as EC is mandated by Constitution, EC should stop such `outsiders’ to render such `support’ to the candidates. If these parties insist on supporting the candidates their support should be included in the candidates’ official expenses and the behaviour of these parties should come under regulation of the candidates/campaign team; There should not be 2 ways about this-the integrity of the election is at stake!
Analogy: no one should be allowed into the field other than the referee and the footballers in a soccer match-let alone allow them to `help’ 1 side to score a goal or 2!
f. How about policy promises? A policy should cut across the board-not where the benefits only go towards a section of the voters targeted by the campaigners. If a road were to be promised to a village then all villages facing similar conditions should be given similar promise; There should not be discrimination on the basis of ethnic group, religion, sex, age groups, language spoken etc. If there are blur cases the Election Commission should have a strong legal panel to make the rules loud and clear to everyone; The EC does have a full time legal advisor currently-though a very muted one.
The Transparency International Malaysia is well advised to refer to international experiences to see how other countries disallow the incumbent party to announce public allocations as a means to fish for votes. They should heed the criticism of their well known predecessor Tunku Aziz that they had been too quiet after Najib’s `You help me, i help you’ remark was made.