PETALING JAYA: Bersih 2.0 has condemned both sides of the political divide for allegedly giving election handouts using funds from state and federal governments.
The electoral watchdog urged the Election Commission (EC) and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to take immediate action “against the blatant and open abuse” of government funds for electioneering.
It said the violations had occurred throughout the country since the dissolution of Parliament and the state legislative assemblies.
“These handouts given in the guise of government aid by elected politicians violate the convention of caretaker governments,” it said in a statement.
Among the violations cited by Bersih are:
- April 8: Kelantan Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob held a function in Kuantan, Pahang, organised by the Kelantan state government, where he handed out television sets, fans, hampers and other goodies. At the event, he campaigned for PAS.
- April 10: Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman gave RM100,000 to Tabung Amanah Warisan Polis (TAWP), a yearly contribution of RM50,000 to Persatuan Kebajikan Polis (Perkep), RM400 for every police family and RM200 each for unmarried officers.
- April 10: Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamad Hasan handed out monetary aid to NGOs and needy individuals. The aid, bearing the state government logo, was handed out at the menteri besar’s office in Wisma Negeri, Negeri Sembilan, a state government building.
- April 11: The Penang government gave an additional RM17.5 million to Islamic education institutions in the state. The event was held in Permatang Pauh. Present at the handover of the funds were PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, and Amanah president Mohamad Sabu. Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng used the handover to dispel allegations he is “anti-Islam”.
- April 12: Prime Minister Najib Razak used an event organised by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) to announce that 67,000 taxi drivers nationwide would receive the 1Malaysia Taxi Assistance Card (Kad Bantuan Teksi 1Malaysia) worth RM800 each. At the event he said, “I will not forget about taxi drivers, you are a group that is close to the government’s heart… Ladies and gentlemen, if all of you help me, I will definitely help you.”
- April 14: The Selangor government organised functions in Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali’s constituencies of Bukit Antarabangsa and Gombak. Azmin handed out cheques, laptops and tablets. While giving the handouts, he said: “This is a compassionate state… Amin, amin, amin, don’t forget to vote.”
Bersih said caretaker government guidelines prohibit combining official visits with electioneering work.
“Elected officials should not make use of governmental or official machinery, resources, transport or personnel during their electioneering work.
“Furthermore, the caretaker government must not use money from the federal or state consolidated funds for the purposes of holding or organising political rallies or meetings. Prior approved programmes or ongoing government aid programmes should be conducted by the civil service and not caretaker ministers or exco members,” it said.
Bersih said the guidelines were based on the internationally accepted norms and practices of caretaker governance which had been sent to all political parties in 2017 as part of the Memorandum on Electoral Reforms.
“Bersih will resend the guidelines on caretaker governments to all state and federal governments, and call upon the governments to adhere to the principles.
“It is not enough to just use the term ‘caretaker’ and to return official cars, but at the same time refuse to adhere to any of the meaningful practices,” it said.
Bersih also questioned why the EC and MACC had not taken any action against the violations.
“If EC chair Hashim Abdullah believes these handouts do not have any impact on the fairness of elections, he should state so publicly and let the rakyat judge his reasons. MACC should also speak out and act against the abuse of government funds and resources.”
Bersih said both bodies should produce clear guidelines on what constituted corrupt practices during elections.
It also urged the public, especially those receiving the handouts, to ask why the goodies were being given now and if it was the best use of government funds.
“Questions must also be raised on whether this aid, such as BR1M, taxi drivers’ assistance and funding for Islamic schools, could have been done earlier but was delayed for the purposes of electioneering.
“Such ‘goodies’ are not indicative of ‘caring’ governance, but instead show a willingness to manipulate and abuse the civil service and government funds for short-term personal and political gain,” it added.
Reports on election offences can be made to Bersih at aduan.pemantau.org, 011-17721546 (WhatsApp) or 03-79314444 (hotline).
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