Ministers at by-election areas an offence, says polls reform committee

Electoral Reform Committee chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman (third from left).

PORT DICKSON: The Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) today urged ministers to stay out of by-election areas during campaign period, saying to do otherwise constitutes an election offence.

ERC chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said ministers should not campaign for candidates, especially when they are from the ruling party.

“But there are no laws to govern these kinds of offences now. So this is one thing that the committee will recommend to be included as a law, to keep these offences in check.

“Because it is not the law now, this is why you see ministers coming here and telling all kinds of stories,” he told reporters at a press conference at the Seri Malaysia Hotel here.

He was commenting on the presence of several ministers in Port Dickson who had campaigned for PKR’s candidate Anwar Ibrahim over the past two weeks.

He said these ministers may have committed the offence by accident because they were used to how things were done in the past.

“They may have unconsciously brought in these ‘bad habits’,” he said. “I think in the next by-election, this will not happen. We will tell all these people to stay away from the by-election area.”

When asked if Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu had committed an offence in presenting service medals to veterans, Rashid who is the former Election Commission (EC) chairman said the event should have been held later.

He also said no one should hold free dinners for candidates.

“It is a serious offence, especially when the candidate endorses the dinner.”

He added however that these offences were out of the EC’s control as it does not have the power to investigate or enforce.

“All enforcement is done by the police. So in the event of this occurring (before new laws are drafted), the best way is to make police reports.

“We are looking at how to give more power to the EC. Next round, they will be in complete control and offences will be taken care of by the law.”

He said the committee was also considering whether to remove authority from the Registrar of Societies to register political parties, and if the country should move away from the first-past-the-post voting system to a proportional representation system.