The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) refers to the remarks made by Lim Guan Eng, who is Finance Minister, while campaigning for the Pakatan Harapan candidate in the P078 Cameron Highlands by-election (Malaysiakini, 16 January 2019, “Guan Eng: Vote Harapan for development in Cameron Highlands“).
Lim told reporters after a visit to the Felda Sungai Koyan night market, “Although the Malaysian government has changed, but the Cameron Highlands (parliamentary) seat has not changed. Why not change this time? This is for the sake of development. If not, the development in the area will lag. But if there are no changes, then voters can change again in GE15.”
Bersih 2.0 believes that government parties should compete on policies, performance and the fulfilment of manifesto promises, instead of turning incumbency into a basis for patronage to discriminate against opposition lawmakers, candidates and voters. New Malaysia is hollow without this paradigm shift which Pakatan Harapan must spearhead instead of politics as usual.
We also reminds Lim of Pakatan Harapan’s promise in the opening remarks of its 2018 general election manifesto – that the alliance was determined to stop Umno and Barisan Nasional’s failure to guarantee the welfare of the common people, especially those who live in rural areas, Indian Malaysians and the indigenous people, as well as the lower-middle class who are often forgotten.
Pakatan Harapan’s promises were for the 99% – and not just for the 1% cronies of Umno and Barisan Nasional. Bersih 2.0 suggests that this noble commitment should be for 100% of Malaysians. No one should be left behind in any development.
Bersih 2.0 is also concerned that Lim’s remarks, hinting that development would be withheld from Cameron Highlands, not only smack of discrimination in local development against opposition constituencies but may also be considered as undue influence, an election offence under Section 9 of the Election Offences Act 1954.
We urge all parties that are campaigning to adhere to existing election laws and demonstrate higher ethical standards in the use of power as an incumbent federal or state government. The principle of a clean and fair election is that the playing field should be level for all candidates, including the smaller parties and, in Cameron Highland’s case, for the two independent candidates. Just because something may not be illegal does not necessarily make it right or fair.
Negative campaigning like personal attacks on candidates, the creating of disharmony using ethnicity and religion, threats of violence, and the withholding of aid and development should be avoided as some of these are election offences.
Pakatan Harapan should be reminded that the previous Barisan Nasional adminsitration under former Prime Minister Najib Razak consistently abused its incumbency while campaigning with the “you help me, I help you” approach in giving out development aid to constituencies. Such unethical methods should cease in the new Malaysia, and Pakatan Harapan should not disappoint Malaysians by morphing into Barisan Nasional 2.0 with such electioneering methods.
Bersih 2.0 urges Lim to either clarify or reiterate his remarks to Cameron Highlands’ voters immediately: will the Pakatan Harapan federal government discriminate against the constituency if voters do not vote in its candidate – or will it truly usher in a breath of fresh air into Malaysian politics by promising development to Cameron Highlands regardless of who wins on polling day on 26 January?
Bersih 2.0 steering committee