Vote-buying, treating, illegal campaigning mars Sarawak polls, says Bersih 2.0

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Prime Minister Najib Razak, centre, posed with Muslim and Christian figures in Sarawak in April after presenting them with cheques. Photograph: Suzanne Lee/Wall Street Journal

Bersih 2.0 has compiled the preliminary reports received by the Pemantau Sarawak Committee after observing the 11th Sarawak election from nomination day until polling day.

In total, 90 Pemantau volunteers were mobilised in five hot seats: Telang Usan, Senadin, Bawang Assan, Tasik Biru and Batu Kitang.

The committee also received reports through the Pemantau hotline.

There were seven categories of election offences that were repeatedly observed and reported throughout the campaign period and on polling day (evidence attached).

Bribery (Section 10 of the Election Offences Act)

On polling day, voting slips were distributed to voters outside polling stations in various constituencies, including Telang Usan, Asajaya, Stakan, Kalaka, Tasik Biru and Batu Kitang. These voting slips contained the Barisan Nasional (BN) logo and were printed by the BN headquarters in Kuching. These voting slips were then later exchanged for money, ranging from RM16 (Telang Usan) to RM70 (Kalaka).

Cash handouts were also observed during the campaign period. In Katibas, people received a letter from BN to collect “Bantuan Khas” and in Tasik Biru, voters confirmed to our pemantau they had received RM30 each from BN party workers when they visited their house (recording attached).

Unauthorised expenses during the campaign period (Section 15A)

Section 15A of the Election Offences Act states that campaign costs can only be covered by the candidate, his election agent and persons authorised in writing by the election agent. When a person is authorised to cover campaign costs, they must submit their accounts to the Election Commission within 14 days of polling day.

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Bersih 2.0 wants confirmation if federal government agencies, school and college associations and business associations which hosted dinners to promote BN candidates during the campaign period were authorised under Section 15A of the Election Offences Act. If these organisations were authorised to fund campaign activities, Bersih 2.0 believes the expenses for such events were in excess of the RM100,000 expenditure cap (Section 19(1)(b)).

In Miri, Adenan Satem held an event with the candidates for Mulu, Telang Usan and Ba’Kelalan in the five-star Pullman Hotel and provided food for over 1,000 people.

In Bawang Assan, SJK Thai Kwang held an 85th anniversary celebration with a sit-down meal provided for over 500 people, in which campaign speeches were given by Adenan Satem and other BN candidates to campaign for Bawang Assan, Pelawan, Dudong and Bukit Assek.

Intimidation (Section 9)

In Tasik Biru, voters were told by Minister for Tourism Nazri Aziz that if they did not vote for the Barisan Nasional candidate, he would not promote tourism in Tasik Biru.

In Pelawan, Sibu, voters were told if the Barisan Nasional candidate did not win, they would be denied constituency development funds.

In Telang Usan, in Long Tebangan, the tuai rumah (head of the longhouse) threatened that those who do not support BN would not get allocations for their houses in the future.

Treating (Section 8)

The provision of free food and drinks at campaign events was widespread and carried out by both sides.

All BN events in Tasik Biru attended by our pemantau provided food free of charge.

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In Bawang Assan, lucky draw prizes were also awarded, including smartphones and hampers.

In Long Bemang, Telang Usan, five groups were given RM2,000 each for food while waiting for the visit of the BN candidate.

‘Pondok panas’ (campaign booths) on Polling Day (Section 26(1))

On polling day, booths were set up by the BN, the PKR and the DAP outside polling stations observed by the Pemantau.

In Bawang Assan, the DAP pondok panas provided water to voters and the BN pondok panas gave out both food and drink to voters.

In Batu Kitang, a PKR pondok panas recorded the names of voters and in exchange gave them a PKR button badge.

At the Lidah Tanah polling station in Batu Kitang, our pemantau observed the BN pondok panas was directing voters to a table where they were given money after voting.

Ferrying of voters to the polling station (Section 20(1)(a))

At Bawang Assan Long House, the pemantau observed voters waiting to receive RM20 in travel allowance from BN party workers.

In Miri, four-wheel drivers were given RM1,400 to transport BN voters back to vote in Telang Usan. Voters could also claim RM200 transportation allowance from the BN Miri office to return to vote in Telang Usan.

Use of government machinery

All BN candidates used the federal and state government property, branding, logos and funds to campaign in the election. State and federal government logos were commonly seen on BN banners, and government cars were used to transport candidates and those campaigning for them.

In Bawang Assan, BN candidate Wong Soon Koh and Adenan Satem used government cars to attend campaign events in SJK Thai Kwang. Adenan Satem also used government vehicles when campaigning in Miri.

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Incompetence and failures by the Election Commission (EC)

The Pemantau teams also observed and received verified reports of a number of procedural failures by the commission.

  • At SK Garland in Batu Kitang, the indelible ink was applied on the wrong hand, in contravention of Section 19(4) of the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations.
  • In Long Likang (Telang Usan), the returning officer refused to give copies of the Form 14 to the counting agents, as required by Section 25(12)(b)(ii) of the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations.
  • Disabled access at Bawang Assan polling stations was limited, and those in wheelchairs had difficulty reaching the polling streams.
  • The Returning Officer for Bawang Assan was unaware of his responsibility under Section 27H of the Election Offences Act to ensure laws relating to elections are being complied with. This was communicated to the Pemantau team when they lodged a report on 4 May 2016.

Despite the continuous pressure by the Malaysian public for free and fair elections, the Election Commission has once again failed in its duty to protect the democratic rights of Malaysians.

Bersih 2.0 will compile all the collected evidence and produce a report on the documented and verified offences. This report will be sent to the Election Commission and form the basis of future awareness programmes in the state. Bersih 2.0 is also exploring legal avenues in relation to the documented offences.

The Sarawak Pemantau Committee and the Bersih 2.0 steering committee

The powerpoint presentation and some evidence can be found here.

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