PETALING JAYA: The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) has slammed the Rural Development Minister's visit to Tanjung Piai just two weeks before the constituency's by-election nomination day.
"Bersih 2.0 is dismayed that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government continues to abuse its position as the Federal Government when it comes to competing in by-elections," its steering committee said in a statement on Wednesday (Oct 16).
It said while current laws do not make it an offence for incumbent governments to use their position and state resources to campaign for their political parties, the principle of free and fair elections was violated when there is no separation of government roles and party duties in election campaigning.
It said government functions must continue during a by-election, and offered guidelines to ensure that the playing field is level for all competing parties in a by-election.
Bersih 2.0 recommended that official ministerial visits and functions to the constituency facing a by-election should cease the moment the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat or state assemblies declared a seat vacant.
"Any new allocations, announcement of projects or relief should not be exclusive to the constituency undergoing a by-election but it should be state or nationwide," it said.
It also recommended that conditional promises that are material in nature or has valuable consideration that is dependent on a candidate winning can be deemed to be a form of bribery, which is an offence under Section 10 of the Election Offences Act 1954.
"No government resources like public funds, facilities, staff and vehicles should be deployed by Ministers and Deputy Ministers, who are campaigning as party leaders, with the exception of assigned vehicles and personnel for their security," it added.
It recommended that if any government aircraft, helicopters and boats are used to travel to the by-election constituency, the equivalent cost of chartering such a conveyance from a private entity should be paid to the Treasury.
Bersih 2.0 said it is currently working with the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) to do a comprehensive review of existing election laws.
"Until our recommendations become law, we call on all parties to observe existing laws and the principle of free and fair elections so that voters could make informed choices based on issues that are important to them and their constituencies and not out of any sense of fear or any unreasonable pressure placed on them," it said.
On Tuesday (Oct 15), Rural Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun awarded grants to the Tanjung Piai Village Community Management Council ceremony and announced that the government had agreed to install 264 street lights within the constituency
Rina, who is also the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) Srikandi (women's wing) chief, also said the wing already outlined its plans to meet with the people in Tanjung Piai to hear their problems.
The Tanjung Piai parliamentary seat fell vacant after the death of Datuk Dr Md Farid Md Rafik from complications following a heart attack on Sept 21.
In the 14th General Election, Dr Farid of Bersatu defeated MCA's Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng and PAS' Nordin Othman.
The Election Commission has fixed Nov 2 as nomination day with early voting on Nov 12 and polling on Nov 16.
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