KOTA KINABALU: Election watchdog Bersih 2.0 recorded 27 election offences during the recent Kimanis by-election, most of them allegedly committed by Warisan-Pakatan Harapan.
Warisan-PH is alleged to have committed 19 election offences, mostly on abuse of government resources and assets, and offences such as canvassing for votes on polling day.
Barisan Nasional is alleged to have committed eight offences such as canvassing for votes and inciting feelings of ill-will or hostility.
Sabah Bersih vice-chairman Beverly Joeman said there were more offences committed compared to the Sandakan by-election last year, especially on announcements of allocations and projects in the Kimanis parliamentary area.
“Eight allocations and projects were announced by the state and federal government during the election period. The total value of the development allocation announced was RM12.845 million,” she told reporters here today.
For example, she said, on Jan 5, Sabah Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick announced RM3 million to upgrade basic infrastructure in 10 villages and the first village to be chosen as “Kampung Sejahtera” was Kampung Tiong Baru in Membakut, a state constituency under Kimanis.
“He also announced an allocation of RM100,000 to upgrade the road leading to the church and the Dewan Kampung Tiong Baru and a bus stop,” she said, adding Ewon also donated RM5,000 to the Village Community Council (MPKK) of Kampung Tiong Baru for the village administrative work.
Sabah Bersih coordinator Asraf Sharafi said, on the same day, Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister Peter Anthony also announced an allocation of RM12 million to repair the Binsulok and Baitam bridges.
He also approved projects for road upgrades in Bukit Manggis, Bongawan – another Kimanis state constituency – which was estimated to be about RM156 million and would benefit 11 villages.
“On Jan 11, Chief Minister Shafie Apdal announced that the state government is looking into the possibility of setting up a new district office in Kimanis to make it easier for residents to carry out government-related transactions,” he said.
This is because at present, the residents had to refer to two other district offices, either in Papar or Beaufort.
Asraf said the increase in allocation or project announcements by the government also took place in the Tanjung Piai by-election.
“It looks like the government now is resorting to the tactics used by the previous government,” he said.
Both Joeman and Asraf said Bersih had reminded the political parties numerous times that the act of using government resources and announcement of projects were unethical during the election period.
“Elections should be based on the principle of clean and fair elections so as to provide a level playing field to all contesting parties and to ensure that the people could evaluate their choices without undue influence.
“The use of government resources during the election period is unethical because the resources should be managed and used for the benefit of all and not for the ruling party to gain votes.”
Meanwhile, Asraf said most election offences were committed on polling day, particularly in canvassing for votes at almost all polling stations that they observed.
“BN and PAS canvassers were more aggressive at polling stations. They were wearing BN shirts and waving BN flags and posters of their candidate.
“Canvassers of Warisan did not wear their party shirts or logo but showed the ‘V’ sign to garner votes for their candidate who was Number 2 on the ballot paper,” he said.
Canvassing for votes is an election offence under Section 26(1)(e)(iii) of the Election Offences Act 1954.
“We also saw many vehicles were used to transport voters but could not identify if they were BN or Warisan voters,” Joeman said.
“But our observers spotted a bus affixed with a Warisan flag and it was used to transport voters at SMK Membakut II and SK Binsulok,” she added.
She said Bersih observers also identified one “pondok panas” or “barung” (voting tent) by Barisan Nasional in SM St Patrick Membakut polling station.
Towards this end, Joeman urged the enforcement authorities and EC to strictly prohibit campaign activities such as canvassing of votes, and providing transport for voters on polling day as they were clearly against the law.
“In addition, the enforcement team also need to be stricter in shutting down the pondok panas,” she said.
Asraf reiterated Bersih’s call for the government to amend the Election Offences Act 1954 to make the use of government resources and announcements of new allocations or projects for the purpose of campaigning an election offence.
“We would also like to suggest a two-day cooling-off period for the general election and one day for the by-election so that campaigning activities will cease before polling day, and voters can go out to vote with a calm and rational mind,” he said.
BN’s Mohamad Alamin won the Kimanis by-election, beating rival Warisan candidate Karim Bujang with a 2,029-vote majority.