PETALING JAYA: Walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning do not need police permits under the current provisions of laws, said Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas.
Thomas clarified that the provisions under which the Election Commission cited the need for a police permit for walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning have been wrongly cited.
“The declaration by the police for the need for such police permits is based on Section 24B (3) of the Election Offences Act 1954.
“With respect, this provision does not expressly refer to walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning. The words used in the provision cannot, under any circumstances, be interpreted to extend to walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning.
“The historical fact is that since 1955, these methods of appealing to the electorate are the ones most popularly used by candidates of all political parties, and without the need for such permits, ” said Thomas in a statement yesterday.
He said he issued the statement as there was a need to make clear the controversy surrounding the requirement for police permits for walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning by the six candidates and their parties for the Tanjung Piai by-election scheduled tomorrow.
“At the outset, it must be kept in mind that voting is a fundamental right expressly enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
“Since 1955,14 general elections and hundreds of by-elections have been held in order for our electorate to vote on their members of parliament and state assemblymen.
“Campaigning for these elections represent the heart of parliamentary democracy, ” said Thomas.
Election Commission chairman Azhar Azizan Harun said he welcomed the move “as the advice comes from the chief legal adviser to the government”.
“I am sure the police will follow the advice, ” he said.
He said that although he personally disagreed with the police action on the matter, “I respect the action as the police were exercising its power and were acting within its jurisdiction”.
Azhar said it was not for him to advise the police, as suggested by certain quarters.
Political parties have cried foul over the announcement that police permits were needed for walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning in Tanjung Piai.
On Wednesday, Azhar said walkabouts were also considered mobile campaigning and must have a clear time frame and location for monitoring purposes.
He said all parties or candidates were reminded to comply with all regulations stipulated for campaigning, particularly permit applications.
In Jerantut, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador said the directive that all political parties contesting in the parliamentary by-election must obtain a permit for house-to-house campaigns and walkabouts was made for security reasons and not under the instruction of any quarters.
However, according to Bernama, he said the police were willing to cancel the directive if all contesting parties objected to it.
In Pontian, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong when asked on the latest development said Thomas should have announced it much earlier.
“I realised that AG Tommy Thomas has just issued a statement saying that this is not right a while ago, ” he said.
“(However), he should have said this earlier and stop all these authorities from introducing new regulation which is different and contravening the Federal Constitution.”Sembrong MP Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has asked the Barisan machinery to go all out in the remaining days before polling day.
“With the clarification made by Tommy, I urge the Barisan machinery to go all out because we are no longer required to have a permit to do walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning, ” he added.