Enforce a caretaker government, urges Bersih 2.0

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Bersih 2.0 wants the government to implement a code of conduct for a caretaker government – which was rcommended by a parliamentary select committee in 2012.

This is a best practice in functioning democracies but it is not in Malaysia because… well, when one has governed the country since Independence with many checks and balances eroded, let’s just say the status quo works to its advantage.

But actually, the Electoral Commission has the power under Article 113(5) of the Federal Constitution to make rules for the purposes of its functions. These rules may include prohibiting the use of public institutions or government machinery by the government of the day in their political and election campaigns.

Bersih 2.0 wants the government to implement a code of conduct for a caretaker government. The aim of these guidelines is to ensure that during the caretaker period, the federal and state governments conduct themselves appropriately so that, although the business of government service and administration continues, major decisions and actions must be avoided so that they do not bind an incoming government.

The must nots and musts of a caretaker government from the time of the dissolution of Parliament or state assembly until the time the incoming government takes office:

A caretaker government must not:

  • make major policy decisions that are likely to commit an incoming government;
  • make significant appointments;
  • enter major contracts or undertakings;
  • announce any new financial grants or promises;
  • lay foundation stones etc of projects or schemes of any kind; or
  • make any new promises of construction of infrastructure or the carrying out of public projects;
  • use and shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign and in particular:
  • combine their official visits with electioneering work and shall not make use of governmental or official machinery, resources, transport or personnel during their electioneering work;
  • use federal or state government machinery, resources, transport and personnel to further the interests of the caretaker government and, in particular, no ministry, department, agency or government-linked corporation shall be directed or permitted to hold functions or activities in conjunction with any electioneering work or campaigning activity;
  • monopolise public places and facilities, and other parties and candidates shall be allowed the use of such places and facilities on at least the same number of times and on the same terms and conditions;
  • use money from federal or state funds to place advertisements in the media;
  • use federal or state funds to hold rallies or meetings;
  • participate in the political process in their professional capacity – they can only do so in their private capacity, avoiding any conflict of interest and without displaying their political affiliations while at work;
  • enter any polling station or place of counting except in their capacity as a candidate or voter or authorised agent;
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and must:

  • ensure free and fair access to free-to-air radio, television and other broadcast media;
  • ensure and is responsible for the security of all citizens equally, and that all police and enforcement officers shall act without fear or favour in providing such security.

The report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform Report recommended in April 2012 that within three months the Electoral Commission should prepare a guideline and code of conduct on the functions of a caretaker government at both state and federal levels.

Guess what the commission has done since about this…

Zilch.

So let’s push for this for the coming general election!

But there’s a whole lot more. Click here to find out what else is needed.

Bersih 2.0 steering committee
16 May 2017

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