The Malaysian chapter of the corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI-M) has refuted the claim that election handouts are not bribes.
“This is especially during campaigning. Unfortunately there are no adequate laws to deal with those things, especially when it comes to cash and sewing machines,” said TI-Malaysia president Paul Low.
“There are a lot of promises made, like building a bridge. These promises are borderline.
“You cross the line when you say, ‘here is RM1,000, vote for me’,” Low told a press conference at the organisation’s headquarters this morning.
This directly contradicts a claim by Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.
The minister had told the Dewan Rakyat in a written reply yesterday that ‘assistance’ given to people during an election cannot be interpreted as corruption.
“We have promised to fulfil (our manifesto)… sewing machine assistance for instance, if it is not given during the election, it will be given after the election. It’s the same. Is this an offence?” Nazri told Ab Azizi Ab Kadir (PKR-Ketereh) during Question Time.
“We cannot stop giving out assistance (during elections) because we will still be providing such assistance after the election.”
Low said election promises, though, are not tantamount to corruption.
“Promises are not corruption and we’re not really bothered unless the Election Commission (EC) comes up with rules that it cannot be done. It may be unethical but it is not corruption.”
While saying that both the opposition and ruling coalitions are guilty of making election promises, he called on the people to be more discerning.
“If someone promises you a bridge, (tell the politicians): It is our right to development for our constituency – why not implement it before an election?”
EC still doesn’t seem to be independent
While TI-M can come up with ideas for free and fair elections, there will still not be a difference if the EC is beset with perception problems, said Low.
NONE”There needs to be a reform in the election process for the do’s and don’ts. There are a lot of grey areas now. Many countries have very specific do’s and don’ts for elections, but Malaysia does not have that…
“In practice, the EC does not seem to be independent. It has to at least be seen to be independent.
“At the moment, the EC is just managing elections, not enforcing… this is an area where we need to strengthen the commission for more powers to conduct an election campaign.”
With the 10th Sarawak election due next month, TI-M called for a free and fair process, with an eye on political financing.
“The impending Sarawak election offers great challenges and opportunities for a free, fair and honest election.
“One of the biggest threats to free, fair and honest elections is political corruption – the mother of all corruption.”
‘Mixed messages from Najib’
Low also touched on the government’s various development plans and its integrity.
NONE”We believe that the acid test (for the Government Transformation Programme) is whether the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) will improve or not, because that will be used by the investors.
“Though Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has said that there will be transparency, there are some mixed messages. Some tenders are open but some are not, like (for) the mass rail transit project.
“Maybe we’re in transition, but we need to be consistent.”
The CPI index dropped from 4.5 in 2010 to 4.4 this year. However, Malaysia’s ranking remained the same – as the 56th least corrupt country.
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