Boasting not an election offence, Bersih says on Sandakan projects

The government has announced 49 development projects for Sandakan worth RM2.28 billion, including the expansion of the airport there. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 says Putrajaya’s announcement of 49 development projects worth RM2.28 billion in Sandakan, Sabah, ahead of the by-election there does not constitute an election offence.

“After looking at the full press statement on the finance ministry website, we realised that these projects are part of what was already allocated under Budget 2019 and not new ad hoc allocations.

“What he (Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng) was doing was reminding Sandakan voters of the good that the Pakatan Harapan government is doing, or in other words, boasting of its achievements,” Bersih chairman Thomas Fann told FMT.

“Boasting is not an election offence.”

Lim said yesterday that the projects had been approved by the federal government and would benefit close to 400,000 people in Sandakan, which includes the constituencies of Batu Sapi and Libaran.

He said Putrajaya had also set aside an allocation of RM183 million to finance such projects this year. The 49 projects will eventually cost up to RM2.28 billion, he added.

The projects include a RM40 million flood mitigation project along Sungai Anip and the expansion of the Sandakan airport, including extension of the runway, which is set to cost RM80 million.

Other projects are related to the oil and palm oil industry and for improvements to the transportation network.

Lim’s announcement sparked calls from opposition leaders including Najib Razak and MCA president Wee Ka Siong for Bersih and the Election Commission to state whether it amounts to an election offence.

Fann said no law had been broken although the timing of Lim’s press release and the focus on Sandakan “points to a fishing expedition for votes”.

He also questioned its release as an official statement by the finance ministry.

“Shouldn’t that be considered an abuse of state resources for party purposes?” he said.

“No law may have been broken, but I will let the people judge if such an action is acceptable.”

The Sandakan by-election will be held on May 11, with nomination day this Saturday and early voting on May 7.

It was triggered by the death of DAP’s Stephen Wong on March 28.