KOTA KINABALU: Responses collected during an Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) workshop in Sabah on election code of conduct reflects a shift toward cleaner politics, says ERC chief executive Amerul Muner Mohammad.
Amerul said the responses during one of the sessions at the Friday (July 26) workshop showed that people were rejecting dirty politics and wanted to do right by the law.
"When it comes to things such as food, drinks, refreshments and provisions during an election period, there is a clash between the law and culture (hospitality)… after all, our law is more than 60 years old.
"There were arguments on what is considered acceptable and what is a bribe, and we have two sections of the law dealing with this - Section 8 (treating) and Section 10 (bribery) under the Election Offences Act 1954.
“One thing they all agreed to was to have certainty. The discussions were more matured and they did not want to go against the law,” he told The Star at the sidelines of the workshop attended by political parties representatives on Friday.
He said moving forward, a clear-cut guide was needed from the Election Commission (EC) to avoid any vagueness on the issue.
Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann, during the workshop, said that hospitality such as providing mineral water was usually considered a small matter and not a bribe during events in an election period.
Another Bersih legal spokesman added that some already have this allocation under their election expenditure, but what created confusion is if it was more expensive such as treating people based on festive reasons.
United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (UPKO) secretary-general Nelson Angang, who attended the workshop, said it created problems when every candidate was expected to do the same.
“For example, if one candidate provides food and drinks, naturally the other candidates have to do so, as this will attract people to their ceramah. So this would mean the election expenditure is increased,” he reasoned.
Other attendees also asked what if others in the party accidentally forgot that a form of treating could be considered a bribe before, during and after elections.
On the other hand, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) information chief Datuk Joniston Bangkuai highlighted the irony on how much focus was given in showing credibility during elections, but then party-hopping was allowed after the polls ended.
“You talk about credibility during campaigning but then some candidates do the opposite after election.
“What we need is a sub-clause, for instance elected representatives are not allowed to switch parties in 21 days (after polling day)," suggested Joniston.
Amerul interjected during the workshop that while party-hopping issue was not under ERC's scope, as it was under parliamentary consideration, he said they expected to see a law to overcome that matter very soon.
“Anything after an election, once you become an MP, it is under Parliamentary (the law).
“I am not in the position to elaborate, but I believe a law on party-hopping will come soon,” he said without adding further information.