PETALING JAYA: The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) has called out Miri MP Michael Teo (pic) for distributing food coupons worth RM75,000 to underprivileged students from five schools just before the Rantau by-election.
They believe Teo has committed an election offence of treating.
Teo said he distributed the free food coupons in Rantau at the request of Dr S. Streram, who will be contesting the by-election and was also present at the event.
Bersih 2.0 said Section 8 of the Election Offences Act 1954 (EOA) stated that it was an election offence to treat anyone to give food, drink, refreshment, provision, money, ticket or any other means for the purpose of corruptly influencing any person to vote at an election.
It said Section 8 begins with the phrase "before, during and after an election".
“Bersih 2.0 would suggest that the interpretation of "before an election" means before the Nomination Day, and thus, it would be reasonable that the starting period for election offences to be committed to be from the moment a seat is declared vacant or when Parliament or State Assembly is dissolved,” the coalition said in a statement on Friday (March 29).
They added that all forms of treating, undue influence, bribery and promotion of ill-will and hostility from the point a seat was vacated constituted an election offence.
“Nonetheless, it is entirely up to the relevant authorities to act on such alleged offences and for the Court to interpret the election law.
“Bersih 2.0 urge the Election Commission to take all necessary steps for redress and ensure that all parties adhere to the EOA,” they said, adding that all parties and candidates should adhere not just to the letter of the law, but also to the spirit of the EOA – that elections must be free, clean and fair.
“It is our hope that with the Rantau by-election, we will see a reversal of the upward trend in offences committed in the past six by-elections since GE14,” they said.
The Rantau state by-election was called after the Federal Court dismissed an appeal by Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan to set aside the Seremban Election Court’s decision on Nov 16, declaring his unopposed victory in GE14 null and void.
Mohamad was declared the winner after Dr S. Streram of PKR was prohibited from entering the nomination centre to submit his nomination papers because he did not have a pass issued by the EC.
Nomination day for the by-election is Saturday (March 30) while polling will take place on April 13.