Election laws trampled amid public apathy

Kim Quek | .

The dirty and unfair Malaysian election system has deteriorated relentlessly – as indicated in the current by-elections in Sg. Besar and Kuala Kangsar, where election offences are wantonly and openly committed with seeming impunity.

In the current by-elections, the foul election tactics have obviously moved up to a higher notch.

In addition to Prime Minster Najib Razak pouring out his endless goodies (read bribery) in the form of cash and projects, Deputy Prime Minister cum Home Minister Zahid Hamidi has now resorted to coercion.

Speaking to the Sg. Besar fishermen who were largely Chinese in Sekinchan during Zahid’s handing out of allowances to them on June 11, he swore (janji potong ayam) that he would grant these manpower-starved fisherman permit to hire foreign workers for only one thing in return – their votes for the BN candidate; and he warned that he would come back to check how they have voted. His message is unmistakable: no votes, no help. If this is not blackmail and bribery, then what is?

Election laws heavily breached

Zahid has thus breached both Section 9 (undue influence) and Section 10 (bribery) of the Election Offences Act 1954.

Section 9 states that every person who uses threats to compel or induce votes or prevent “the free exercise of the franchise of any voter” shall be “guilty of the offence of undue influence.”

And Section 10 states that every person who gives or promises to give material benefits “in order to induce” votes “shall be deemed guilty of the offence of bribery”.

Clearly, under such strict election laws, there is no room for both PM and DPM to wriggle away from the dragnet of the Malaysian laws, but the strange thing is that there is dead silence over such blatant offences –  both from the law-enforcers and the opposition.

Impotent institutions & public apathy

Why has the Election Commission (EC), which has been entrusted by the Federal Constitution to conduct and ensure free and fair elections, remained silent?  Answer: By words and deeds, it has shown itself to be an institution whose sacrosanct duty is to ensure the perpetuity of Umno’s rule.  This was admitted to with pride by former EC Chairman Rashid Rahman.

And why were MACC and the police whose jurisdictions obviously encompass such criminal offences, have remained dormant?  Answer: MACC lacks zeal and courage to act against the interests of the ruling elite, while the police is an unabashed instrument to safeguard the political interest of the ruling party as vividly demonstrated in the 1MDB/Najib corruption scandals.

Then, why are the opposition and election activists inert?  Answer: fatigue and sense of futility.  They have made numerous complaints in the past, all of which seem to have hit a stone wall – from EC to MACC to police and even to the judiciary.

Complaints to EC or MACC would end up with these two institutions passing the ball to and fro between them without any action being taken, as exemplified in Bersih’s recent complaints to the EC over numerous offences in the recent farcical Sarawak elections.

And suits filed in the courts were all thrown out by judges on trivial and absurd grounds with heavy penalties in the form of astronomical legal charges slapped on the complainants, as happened in the last two general elections.

Now, with our election system tilted completely in favour of the incumbent power, what can the people do to save this country from the current dangerous spiral towards a failed state?

People the final arbiter

Yes, we still have the ultimate power which is the will of the people. If the overwhelming majority of the people want change, then change will come.  At the moment, we can still accomplish our goal by using our votes – overwhelmingly in favour of change.

And the imminent by-elections are golden opportunities to trigger off that change. However, the voters can only make a positive impact, if sufficient numbers of them vote for change, for which outstation voters are earnestly pleaded to come back and cast their precious votes for the noble cause. Do not be disheartened by prospect of losing the election, for significant numbers will carry a powerful message that will set in motion a chain reaction that will energise the reformers and disarray the corrupt power.

Having enumerated the dismal law enforcement of our institutions, opposition and activists must not concede a free ticket to violators to continue to trample on our election laws.  They should nevertheless protest and lodge complaints as necessary, which will increase voters’ awareness of the immorality of the incumbent establishment and thus helping to win support from the electorate, besides inflicting an occasional punishment to the culprits.

It is the winning of the hearts and minds of the masses that will lead to eventual victory.

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