KOTA KINABALU: The fact that political parties wanted clarity on what amounted to bribery during a workshop reflects a shift towards cleaner politics, says Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) chief executive Amerul Muner Mohammad.
Amerul said responses collected during one of the sessions of the ERC’s election code of conduct workshop on Friday here showed that people are rejecting dirty politics and wanted to do right by the law.
“When it comes to food, drinks, refreshments and provisions during the election period, there is a clash between law and culture (hospitality). After all, our law is over 60 years old.
“There were arguments about what is deemed acceptable and what is bribery – and we have two sections in the law pertaining to corruption, Section 8 (treating) and Section 10 which deals with bribery (under the Election Offences Act 1954).
“But they all agree that there should be certainty. The discussions were more mature and they don’t want to go against the law,” he told The Star on the sidelines of the workshop attended by representatives from political parties.
ERC was set up by the government to review election laws and systems in Malaysia.
Moving forward, Amerul said, a clear-cut guide is needed from the Election Commission (EC) to avoid any confusion.
During the workshop, Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said providing mineral water was usually considered a small matter and not a bribe during election campaigns.However, there were attendees who expressed uncertainty during the workshop about the legality of providing treats to people during festive seasons.
United Pasokmomogun Kadazanآdusun Murut Organisation (UPKO) secretary-general Nelson Angang, who attended the workshop, said it created a problem when every candidate is expected to do the same.“For example if one candidate provides food and drinks, naturally the other candidates would have to do so, as this would attract people to their ceramah. So this would mean the election expenditure would increase,” he said.
Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) information chief Datuk Joniston Bangkuai highlighted the irony of focusing so much on credibility during elections, but then party-hopping was allowed after the polls.
“You talk about credibility during campaigning but then they did the opposite after election. What we need is a sub-clause, for instance elected representatives are not alloآwed to switch parties for 21 days (afآter polling day),” suggested Joniston.Amerul interjected that the party-hopping issue is not under ERC, as it was under Parliament’s consideration, but added that they expected to see a law to address that matter very soon.
“Once you become a Member of Parliaآment, it is under the parliamentary (laws). I am not in the position to elaborate, but I believe a law on party-hopping will be coming soon,” he said.