Bersih 2.0: Seven by-elections, 1,000 offences, so what are cops, AGC doing about it?

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann (2nd left) and executive chairman Yap Swee Seng (centre) pose with a copy of the electoral watchdog’s election observation report for the Rantau by-election in Petaling Jaya April 23, 2019. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann (2nd left) and executive chairman Yap Swee Seng (centre) pose with a copy of the electoral watchdog’s election observation report for the Rantau by-election in Petaling Jaya April 23, 2019. — Picture by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA, April 23 — Authorities must state the actions they are taking in response to a reported 1,000 electoral offences in seven by-elections by Bersih 2.0 since GE14, the group said today.

Its chairman Thomas Fann said that as far as they can tell nothing appears to have been done since the police were informed of these offences.

“We do not know if they have already begun their investigations, and if they have forwarded the papers to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC),” he said during a press conference on their election observation report for the Rantau by-election on April 13.

He suggested that the police could instead make it a part of their standard operating procedure to list down all reports made to them during an after a by-election.

“This is so the public can see and be aware. Once this is done, a final report should also be released where they inform us what has been done with the police reports lodged.

“At least this way we will be able to understand if a report will not be followed up on due to, say, a lack of witnesses, or other problems,” Fann said.

Similarly if investigations into a report has been completed and its paper submitted to the AGC, he said it would allow the AGC to explain the reasons behind the perceived lack of action taken.

Bersih, along with fellow electoral watchdogs Engage and Tindak Malaysia, recorded 36 cases of election offences and misconduct during Rantau’s campaigning period.

Of the cases, Bersih’s executive director Yap Swee Seng said 19 were committed by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and 16 by Barisan Nasional (BN). Twenty-five of the 36 cases occurred on the polling day of April 13 itself.

“These include two cases of undue influence, seven cases of treating and gifting, one case of political violence, intimidation and harassment, and one case of promoting ill-will or hostility using race and religion in campaigning,” he said.

Yap commended the candidates for the decrease in hate speech, compared to four and three instances in the Cameron Highlands and Semenyih by-elections, respectively.

“However we note an increase of treating and gifting in Rantau by seven, compared to the four and five cases in Cameron Highlands and Semenyih, respectively.

“These include various dinner functions or providing food by BN and PH in their campaigning programmes, and in the case of PH free health screening and bekam (cupping) services in a carnival,” he said.

Yap said there were also instances of unethical behaviour, which includes Negri Sembilan Exco Ismail Ahmad and Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin- the former who promised to solve the problems of a disabled persons’ centre and latter pledged to build an old folks’ home while campaigning for PH.

“Making such promises using the position they are holding is an improper influence of voters,” he said.

Yap said the lack of enforcement and absence of prosecution under existing legislation has resulted in the perpetuation of election offences.

“We suggest the election campaign enforcement team work with the police against such offences, and the Election Commission and the AGC to study the feasibility of bringing charges to the offenders,” he said.