PETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 says Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran did not commit an election offence in encouraging the Tamil community to vote for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate in Rantau, adding however that it was “distastefully done”.
“It was not an election offence, but using race, even if it is not insulting of other races, is disgraceful,” Bersih chairman Thomas Fann said in a press conference to announce the coalition’s post-mortem on the Rantau by-election on April 13.
Kulasegaran had been seen in a 58-second clip telling an audience in Tamil that he would be ashamed if the Indian community did not vote for PKR’s Dr Streram Sinnasamy.
The minister subsequently said his speech had been twisted and taken out of context.
“I spoke to the Indians who have ditched Barisan Nasional (BN). Many, after my speech, felt happy with what I articulated,” he said.
However, Fann said minister Zuraida Kamaruddin and Negeri Sembilan exco Ismail Ahmad had breached ethical standards by promising to solve the problems of a disabled persons centre and an old folks home in Rantau.
“While there is no specific mention of offences on abuse of state resources in the Election Offences Act, making such promises using their positions was an improper influence over voters,” he said.
He said Bersih would propose clearer election laws so that such incidents can be clearly defined as an election offence or not.
Fann said Bersih had not recorded any racial slurs from BN due to the large number of non-Malay voters, with up to 46% being Chinese and Indians.
He said BN had used race and religion to woo voters in other by-elections.
He added however that PH was now breaking more election laws, with more election offences recorded for the ruling coalition in Rantau than for BN.
He gave the example of the first by-election at Sungai Kandis, where he said PH had given out free durians.
“When it was pointed out, they immediately withdrew it. Now, they just do it.”
According to Bersih, government political parties committed 19 offences while BN committed 16.
The offences include using undue influence (two cases), treating and gifting (seven cases), political violence, intimidation and harassment (two cases), promoting ill-will or hostility using the race card (one case) and problems on polling day (25 cases). One case was committed by an unknown person.
Fan also expressed concern over treating and gifting, saying this has been on the increase on the part of both coalitions.
He said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the police had not provided updates on the reports lodged.
This should have been done as it was a matter of public interest, he added.
“The police said (the cases) are being investigated. But the police need to come clean. If no further action was taken, why?” he said.