Bersih defends Pakatan, says no offence as long as spending stated in campaign budget

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said the practice of reimbursing travel expenses was not an election offence so long as it was accounted for in its campaign budget, and the spending does not exceed the RM200,000 limit as stated in Section 19 of the Election Offences Act. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif
Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said the practice of reimbursing travel expenses was not an election offence so long as it was accounted for in its campaign budget, and the spending does not exceed the RM200,000 limit as stated in Section 19 of the Election Offences Act. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 13 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) has not engaged in any vote-buying exercise in the Cameron Highlands by-elections, electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 said today amid the coalition’s admission of reimbursing its volunteers’ travel.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said the practice was not an election offence so long as it was accounted for in its campaign budget, and the spending does not exceed the RM200,000 limit as stated in Section 19 of the Election Offences Act.

“They reimburse petrol money to their volunteers. That is not an offence as long as they account for it in their expenditure and I think with that explanation we can move on from there.

“Volunteers themselves need petrol money, food and accommodation. So all this need to be recorded in the candidate’s expenses within their RM200,000 budget,’’ he said to the press after attending a forum on local council elections here

Pictures of a woman in a PH shirt giving cash to other people wearing the same shirt have emerged on social media, sparking claims from Barisan Nasional leaders that the ruling coalition was engaged in bribery in the election.

DAP’s Lim Kit Siang has since admitted that the woman is a volunteer from DAP’s Impian Malaysia programme doing voluntary social work nationwide, and 60 Orang Asli motorcyclists were paid RM20 per head.

Arvind Bharet, assistant head of the Jelai PH operation centre, has also said its campaign was simply “reimbursing” PH volunteers for petrol costs, and the spending was declared as part of election expense.

Election watchdogs have previously said in their report on the 13th general election that bribery included cash, and travel allowances or reimbursements.

Election Commission chairman Azhar Harun also clarified that only the court can decide whether the travel “reimbursement” is an election offence, urging the public to report any alleged wrongdoings so the facts can be ascertained.