Govt cars meant for personal use allowed during campaigning, says EC

The Negeri Sembilan speaker’s car seen near the Rantau by-election nomination centre in Seremban this morning.

SEREMBAN: The Election Commission (EC) today said the use of official government vehicles for campaigning is not an election offence, hours after a car belonging to the Negeri Sembilan state assembly speaker was spotted outside the Rantau by-election nomination centre here.

EC deputy chairman Azmi Sharom said while government vehicles can be used for everything, department or government agency vehicles are not allowed to be used in election campaigns.

“Not necessarily,” Azmi told reporters at a press conference when asked if the use of the speaker’s car as well as vehicles belonging to his deputy and a state executive councillor was against the Election Offences Act 1954.

“We have to see who owns the car. If it is specified to be used for personal use, we can’t do anything,” he said, adding that this applied to vehicles allocated to ministers and state exco as long as they were specified to be for personal use.

Azmi said the use of government machinery, including a Pahang state Forestry Department four-wheel drive vehicle, during the Cameron Highlands parliamentary by-election, was an offence and action could be taken.

A car bearing the seal of the state assembly speaker on its number plates was seen near where Pakatan Harapan supporters had gathered for the nomination of the Rantau by-election candidates at SJK (C) Bandar Sri Sendayan here this morning.

Other government vehicles, such as those belonging to the deputy speaker and a state exco, were spotted in the vicinity.

On Miri MP Dr Michael Teo’s food coupon handouts to children in Rantau yesterday, Azmi said this was considered as “treating”, which fell in a “legal grey area”.

“This activity can be considered as ‘treating’. Section 8 of the Election Offences Act says you can’t treat before, during and after an election.

“The issue here is whether it is ‘before an election’ because it is not defined,” he said.

Bersih 2.0 had alleged that PH had committed an election offence after Teo was said to have given food coupons to underprivileged students in Rantau.

“Bersih would suggest that the interpretation of ‘before an election’ means before nomination day,” the electoral watchdog said.

Earlier today, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim said the party would not use government machinery during the by-election campaign, adding that he has advised members not to go to “extremes” when campaigning.

He also said he had taken note of Bersih’s allegation and would leave it to the EC to investigate.