Pakatan demands MACC probe on Putrajaya pre-GE13 ad blitz

File photo of a 1 Malaysia billboard on the Sprint Highway in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Choo Choy May
File photo of a 1 Malaysia billboard on the Sprint Highway in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers called today for a corruption investigation on Putrajaya’s advertising campaign ahead of Election 2013 that exceeded half a billion ringgit.

The opposition MPs said that spending taxpayers’ money on Barisan Nasional’s (BN) political campaigns was a “clear abuse” of public funds.

”This sheer and blatant abuse of funds must be investigated by the MACC, and the report made public to prove the competence, integrity and independence of the anti-corruption efforts,” DAP publicity chief Tony Pua told The Malay Mail Online today via email, referring to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

”The amount of money spent on glorifying Najib’s administration could have been spent on building two full-fledged hospitals or at least five well-endowed schools,” added the Petaling Jaya Utara MP.

The Malay Mail Online reported earlier today that the federal government had spent RM531 million on advertisements in the first half of 2013, a 160 per cent increase over the same period last year, according to international media-buying agency Vizeum Media.

In its July report, Vizeum Media noted that the Prime Minister’s Department took up the lion’s share of Putrajaya’s advertising expenditure by spending RM264 million for the first six months of the year, five times more than it did in 2012.

Putrajaya was the largest advertising spender for the first half of the year, blowing as much money as the next four advertiser categories combined, with the next closest contender - women’s beauty products - expending just RM163 million.

”Without this blatant abuse of power, Najib would easily have become the opposition leader in the 13th Malaysian parliament,” said Pua, referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Despite the extensive advertising campaign, the ruling BN continued its slide from Election 2008 to record its worst showing ever in the May 5 general election by losing an additional seven federal seats to PR.

BN also lost the popular vote for the first time since 1969, when it had last contested as the Alliance Party.

Bersih 2.0 co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan called on Putrajaya to explain why tax monies were being used to “promote partisan interest”.

”It’s completely unacceptable. It’s absolutely shocking,” Ambiga told The Malay Mail Online today.

The electoral watchdog leader stressed that political parties in Malaysia should move towards declaring the sources of the funds for their campaigns.

”That’s the only thing that can put a stop to money politics - corruption and money politics,” said Ambiga.

PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar said that Putrajaya would not be justified in implementing the controversial goods and services tax (GST) after such “excessive wastage” and “leakages”.

“With this latest exposé, he has no locus standi to say anything,” Nurul Izzah told The Malay Mail Online today, referring to Najib.

“BN and the government cannot be one and the same,” stressed the Lembah Pantai MP.

PAS central working committee member Khalid Samad said today that Putrajaya’s advertising campaign was “obviously a misuse of public funds”.

“Did not help much in improving BN’s performance either,” the Shah Alam MP told The Malay Mail Online today.

Ahead of the 13th general election in May, Putrajaya and BN set out to conquer advertising space both in the traditional outlets such as print, television and radio, as well as in the so-called new media on the Internet.

It participated in paid-for promotions, such as social network Twitter’s “Promoted Accounts” and “Promoted Tweets” programmes, and delved heavily into adverting with online news portals.

On the Internet, it adopted “Better Nation” as its rallying theme, a play on BN’s initials. These included a standalone website and linked advertisements on others.

Beyond advertising, the coalition also invested extensively in premiums like an “Action Kit” containing 1 Malaysia-themed memorabilia such as caps, pens, stickers and more that were freely distributed to supporters and interested people.

Billboards promoting Najib’s 1 Malaysia theme and the “Janji Ditepati” (Promises Fulfilled) slogan, which was BN’s campaign platform, also sprouted along major highways in the country.

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