Thursday, November 10, 2011

‘Umno guilty of vote buying ‘ | Free Malaysia Today

‘Umno guilty of vote buying ‘

Teoh El Sen | November 10, 2011-FMT

Amanah deputy president and former Umno minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir admits BN had bought votes before and that it was common knowledge.

PETALING JAYA: The cat is finally out of the bag. A senior former Umno minister admitted that his party bought votes during elections.

The Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah) deputy president and former tourism minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said it was “common knowledge” that such corrupt practices occurred, especially among his Barisan Nasional (BN) colleagues.

And now, Kadir is calling on the BN government to do away with vote buying during elections, a practice he admitted has happened in the past.

“Amanah has asked that there should be no ‘distribution of cash’ to buy votes. It is now common knowledge that two, three, days before voting day, some political parties go about with cash (to bribe voters),” he told FMT.

Kadir said it was an Amanah consensus that all government parties should be strictly prohibited from such practices to ensure free and fair elections.

Asked if he was pointing to political parties from both sides of the political divide, he plainly said: “No, basically we’re talking about the government parties.

“Opposition parties mana ada duit (where do they have the money?) I can say that a lot of BN members are perpetuating such acts.”

On electoral reforms, Kadir said that Amanah fully supports the call for a “care-taker” government to take over the administration of the country at least three months before the dissolution of Parliament.

“This is so all government agencies will be neutralised at this point. When election comes, government machinery cannot be used to support the ruling coalition. Government funds for election should not and cannot be used,” he said.

Amanah’s stand

Kadir also said that it was “obvious” that the opposition had very limited access to the media.

“We (Amanah members) have agreed; it is so obvious that the opposition has no access to the mainstream media, that is not fair. We must ensure that there is fair access,” he said.

Kadir also said that the delineation of constituencies has to be properly discussed so that it would be “very fair” to all parties, and that should be the next priority.

He said that Amanah, the new NGO led by Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, was fully committed to “returning the country to the rakyat”.

“When we achieved Merdeka, it was the rakyat who got the independence, not Tunku (Abdul Rahman), not even the Sultans. Therefore free and fair elections, which were there during the time of our founding fathers, should be returned.

“The spirit of our founding fathers and the rakyat’s rights have been hijacked along the way,” he said.

He reiterated Amanah’s stand that the Parliamentary Select Committee for electoral reforms should revamp the system before election is called as there is “ample” time before the government mandate expires in 2013.

Khairy wants proof

Meanwhile, when asked to comment on Kadir’s statement on vote buying, BN Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said it was insufficient for Kadir to claim vote buying exists without furnishing proof.

“If he makes such accusations, he has to come up with proof. He has been a minister for a very long time, a very senior politician; he should furnish us with proof,” said Khairy, who supported call for the general election to be called after PSC has come up with recommendations.

Kadir, when asked if he would furnish proof of existence of vote buying, said he would not respond immediately as there was ample time to do so.

Meanwhile, Bersih 2.0 steering committee member Wong Ching Huat commended Kadir’s admittance and called for Amanah to take it one step further by pushing for investigations on “un-investigated” cases of vote buying.

“I welcome his honesty. I hope that people who know about this, people who are formally involved, would come out as star witnesses,” said Wong.

He said law enforcement needs to take place, and urges Amanah to also stand up and put pressure on several “unsolved” cases, citing Sarawak as an example.

On having a “care-taker” government, Wong said that a “neutral” caretaker government would be possible, but might be quite hard to implement.

However, he suggested that the more feasible, and realistic, execution of such an idea is to extend the campaign period and to prohibit any promise or spending of monies in areas where election is held.

“The government should not announce any distribution of funds unless for emergency purposes. And if any, then all political parties should share the limelight; that would be fair. And this would kill off a lot of abuses,” said Wong.

He added that Bersih 2.0 believes in the need to have an Administrative Neutrality Act, where a clear line would be drawn to criminalise any conscious and deliberate effort to abuse state resources for partisan gain.

“For example, if you allow usage of a community hall to one party, and decline usage to another party without any justifiable reasons, then you can be punished,” he said.

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