Cash handouts or giving of anything valuable during elections is bribery
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) reiterates that the giving of cash handouts or anything valuable during elections is bribery. To eradicate this malady requires not only the consistent enforcement of the Election Offences Act 1954 (EOA), but also the enactment of the Political Financing Act (PFA) and the setting up of a permanent Parliament Standing Committee to scrutinize the election system and process.
BERSIH refers to the statement by PAS President Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang who stated that cash handouts by the public during election campaigns is a a form of charity and not bribery. Though the giving of alms has become part of our culture in Malaysia, the giving of cash or anything valuable during elections can be considered as the election offence of bribery.
The statement by Abdul Hadi Awang that only candidates and their agents are forbidden from giving handouts is not in line with Section 10 (Bribery) of the Election Offences Act 1954 which states that every person before, during and after an election, who directly or indirectly gives cash or anything valuable, can be considered as having committed the offence of corruption.
What this means is that any cash or anything valuable given to voters during an election period to influence a person to vote for or refrain from voting is a form of corruption. It does not matter if the act was done directly or through a third party, it is bribery.
While the law clearly states that this is an offence, the authorities, be it PDRM or SPRM, need to investigate and the Attorney-General as the public prosecutor, need to charge the people involved before the Court could pass judgement. Abdul Hadi Awang's statement is an admission that monies was given out during GE15 as a "charity". The Court should be given the opportunity to give their interpretation in this matter.
BERSIH wishes to put on record several other actions that can be regarded as election offences under Section 8 (Treating) and 10 (Bribery) of the EOA 1954 during GE15. Our full report will be released shortly.
Besides the enforcement of the law, especially the EOA, to curb corrupt practices during elections, proactive measures by the Government and Parliament to enact the Political Financing Act (PFA) should not be further delayed.
The PFA has been discussed since the administration of Najib, Mahathir, Muhyiddin and Ismail Sabri while they were Prime Ministers. The PFA Bill should be reviewed by a parliamentary committee that takes in the considered views of key stakeholders as well as the public.
BERSIH proposes that a permanent Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and Multiparty Democracy be established in this coming February sitting of Parliament so that the long awaited PFA Bill that has been hidden from the scrutiny and feedbacks of the public could be reviewed by the Committee.
The drafting and tabling of the PFA should not be delayed because it would give the perception to the public that this Government is not serious is addressing the problems of election bribery and money politics and the warp perception that any investigation against the opposition for corruption is politically motivated and witch-hunting because the AG still has the power of prosecution.
Statement issued by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH