Travel ‘reimbursement’ an election offence? Let court decide, EC chair says

EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun speaks to reporters in Parliament, November 30, 2018. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun speaks to reporters in Parliament, November 30, 2018. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 13 — Only the judiciary can decide whether the travel “reimbursement” offered by Pakatan Harapan (PH) to several Orang Asli motorcyclists is an election offence, Election Commission chairman Azhar Harun said today.

The former lawyer said he cannot comment further on the incident which has since gone viral on social media, claiming he was not on the ground then and therefore cannot substantiate the claims.

“Whether reimbursements is an offense is up to the court and I can’t comment on that.

“I do not want to pre-empt any finding of the investigative authority,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.

On his Twitter account, Azhar said anybody with direct knowledge of the photographs in question should lodge a report with either the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) or the police, so that the matter would go to court.

It was only then that the fact is ascertained, and the EC would then be more than happy to act accordingly, Azhar added.

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.

“Under the law, giving money in expectation of voting or to not vote for another party is an offense,” Azhar explained.

“Hence, I implore anybody with direct information or knowledge of that event to go and lodge a police report with SPRM and let them investigate,” he added, using the Malay initials for the MACC.