Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kit Siang: RM1.7b Sarawak pork barrel justifies Bersih march

June 22, 2011- The Malaysian Insider


Lim accused Najib of uprooting the entire Cabinet to campaign in Sarawak. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Lim Kit Siang has accused Barisan Nasional (BN) of vote buying during the April 16 Sarawak election, stating that the RM1.7 billion spent on its campaign was reason enough for the July 9 Bersih rally calling for free and fair elections.

The DAP parliamentary leader added that the entire federal Cabinet had campaigned in Sarawak, leaving no one to govern the country during the election period.

“It was not just Sarawak BN but the entire federal government campaigning in the Sarawak elections — making a complete mockery of the principle of free and fair elections,” said the Ipoh Timur MP of the RM1.18 billion spent by the Najib administration up to April 30 this year in Sarawak.

He also cited reports that BN had spent over RM500 million in the state polls, far in excess of election laws limiting each state assembly candidate to RM100,000 or RM71 million for the combined 71-seat Sarawak legislative.

“The rally needs to be held if Malaysia is to join the rank of developed democracies... unlike many failed African states where elections are used to give the fig-leaf of legality to illegitimate governments,” he said, adding that BN would likely spend up to RM5 billion in a general election expected within the year.

The Prime Minister’s Department said in Parliament yesterday that RM1.18 billion was spent in the first four months of the year on 62 programmes and projects, 52 of which have already been implemented.

Lim also said that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak “cancelled the Cabinet meeting during the Sarawak election period, dragooning all federal ministers to campaign in Sarawak — leaving Putrajaya as an empty seat of federal power.”

Corruption watchdog Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) also threw its support behind Bersih, stating that political financing should be reformed and action taken against vote buying.

“The fight against corruption in any country begins at the top in the political arena, starting with clean and fair elections where the democratic process of election is carried out in a manner where its integrity is safeguarded,” said president Datuk Paul Low.

He called on the Election Commission (EC) to define clearly what is illegal and what is not so that “swift and stern action to be taken against all allegations of corruption, including vote buying.”

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties and activists are gearing up to march next month in the second such rally by Bersih, the first being in 2007 when up to 50,000 were reported to have gathered in the capital, with many being dispersed by water cannons and tear gas fired by the police.

PAS has promised to deliver at least 100,000 protestors this year in hopes that it will galvanise support for the opposition in the next general election, expected to be called within a year.

The 2007 rally was said to play a big role in bringing record gains for the opposition electoral pact in Election 2008, where it swept five state governments and won 82 parliamentary seats.

But both Umno Youth and Perkasa are planning anti-Bersih marches on the same day, with the Malay rights NGO pledging to send 20 buses from each of the 10 peninsular states, in addition to supporters from 164 other non-governmental organisations, to protest the Bersih rally.

However, Lim said that if any BN party was prepared to support Bersih, he was certain they would be welcome to serve in the group’s steering committee ahead of the July 9 gathering.

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