PETALING JAYA: A bribe is a bribe no matter how one chooses to describe it, says anti-graft chief Tan Sri Azam Baki (pic).
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner said the Election Offences Act 1954 (Revised 1969) was very clear on what constitutes vote-buying.
“Section 10 (a) of the Act is very clear and whatever layman terms used to defend an argument is a mere personal interpretation.
“Name it ‘sedekah’ (alms) or ‘contribution’, the law deems it a bribe paid to voters – regardless whether the voters solicit it or not,” he said when contacted.
Azam pointed out that Section 10 (a) defined in detail acts of bribery before, during and after elections, adding that it did not matter whether the crime was committed directly or indirectly, meaning by the candidate himself or by a representative on his behalf.
He said the MACC would investigate any form of bribery using the law and not on personal interpretations.
Azam was commenting on the heated discourse as to whether cash handouts to voters during an election campaign period constituted vote-buying or an act of charity.
Last week, Terengganu Barisan Nasional urged the authorities to immediately investigate the PAS state government over allegations that the latter distributed money to voters during its GE15 campaign.
State Barisan chief Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Said said it had instructed division and state legislative assembly youth heads to lodge reports with the MACC.
This came after many videos circulated online where voters were said to have been made to swear to vote for PAS in order to receive cash aid under the Perikatan Nasional government’s Covid-19 stimulus packages.
Perikatan secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin was reported to have said that Perikatan election candidates had given money to voters but that it was at the voters’ request.
On Saturday, PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang claimed that it was not against election rules as the money was distributed for “charity” and existing campaigning rules only prohibited candidates and their representatives from giving cash to voters.
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) chairman Thomas Fann said the admission of any leader that cash had exchanged hands should be taken into account during investigation by the authorities.
“The Election Offences Act defines bribery as the giving of anything valuable to a voter during an election in order to induce a voter to vote for him or her. It does not matter whether it is done directly by the candidate or a third party.
“When cash is given out during an election, it is bribery and not charity. The law is clear but before it can take effect, the authorities must investigate and the Attorney General must charge the offenders before the court can pass judgement,” he said.
“The declaration by Abdul Hadi that the money given out during GE15 was charity is an admission that money was indeed given to voters.
“The courts have to be given the opportunity to interpret that action,” Fann added.