GIVEN that the by-election in Kimanis is around the corner, it is appropriate if parties contesting engage in clean and fair campaigns.
Integrity and fairness in electoral campaigns are crucial to ensure that fraud or corruption does not damage the credibility of the election and its outcome.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has said it would take action against parties, their agents and members who breach the provisions
of Election Offences Act 1954 (EOA) and found to have been using inducement to buy votes, while police can focus on other criminal offences and security matters.
A special 24/7 operations centre has been set up by MACC at its Kota Kinabalu office to enable the public to report any abuse of power or corruption. The public can contact 08-8488381 for information.
Election offences have been recorded in the Port Dickson, Sungai Kandis, Seri Setia, Balakong, Semenyih and Tanjung Piai by-elections.
Even before the nomination date and campaign period started in Kimanis, Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s alleged corruption case surfaced. This included during a Christmas event in Membakut recently, where Warisan leaders handed out lucky draw prizes, which are offences under the EOA.
Both candidates should not engage in activities that could violate election laws and regulations in accordance with the EOA, MACC Act 2009 and Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
It appears the change of government in 2018 has not brought changes to the way parties conduct campaigning.
Last Friday, Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub announced a RM90,000 allocation for fishermen in Kampung Biau, Bongawan, to repair the jetty in the village.
It was also reported that Salahuddin handed over a mock cheque for RM3 million to Papar Area Fishermen Association — RM1 million for economic projects and RM2 million building grants for business purposes.
This is morally wrong and unethical, as it attempts to influence voters, unless it was under an official schedule or pre-arranged as part of service delivery.
Under EOA, it is an offence not to submit election expenditure statement within 31 days after the election results are gazetted. Failure to submit the expenditure statement would include not being allowed to attend the state assembly sitting and participate in any election for five years. One can also be charged with breaking the law.
Hence, access to information on political financing, including election campaign contributions and expenses, are essential for protecting integrity since they promote transparency and increase public confidence in the electoral process.
Under Section 15A of the EOA, a candidate must record expenses incurred during an event, and that a candidate’s maximum spending limit is RM100,000. Other offences amounting to corrupt practices is provided for under Sections 8 (treating), 9 (undue influence), 10 (bribery). They cover direct and indirect acts committed to induce any person to vote or refrain from voting.
Under Section 8, any candidate who accepts or takes food, drinks or refreshment, provision, money or tickets shall be guilty of the offence of treating.
Section 9 refers to placing undue influence on voters. The use of coercive tactics to influence or interfere with any person’s electoral right is also an offence.
Section 10 refers to anyone who commits direct or indirect vote-buying, such as giving or offering money, gifts, employment, office, place or loan before, during or after an election.
Sections 8, 9 and 10 of EOA cover not only the candidate but anyone liable to commit these offences. Upon conviction, a person may be liable to a maximum of two years’ jail or fine of between RM1,000 and RM5,000. The person is also not allowed to vote for five years.
Malaysians are eager to see that the law is adhered to by parties in Kimanis.
Having laws to regulate political funding will have a positive impact on Malaysia as it will improve the country’s image in terms of transparency, integrity and accountability.
There should be zero tolerance of money politics from both sides of the political divide.
Candidates in the by-election and their supporters need to conduct their campaigning within the scope of our laws, while enforcement agencies must enforce the laws and protect the democratic process for a free, clean, fair and credible election.
Otherwise, our cry for a Malaysia Baru will ring hollow.
The writer holds HELP University’s Institute of Crime & Criminology
professorial chair and president of Malaysia Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times