Law minister denies malice in permit requirement for all campaigning events

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law) Datuk Liew Vui Keong is pictured at Parliament October 7, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law) Datuk Liew Vui Keong is pictured at Parliament October 7, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — Datuk Liew Vui Keong told Parliament there was no bad faith in the recent enforcement of a law requiring police permits for all campaigning activities including walkabouts and home visits for the Tanjung Piai by-election.

During the Minister’s Question Time this morning, the minister in charge of legal affairs told Pengerang (BN) MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said this was required in the Election Offences Act 1954.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department added that the Pontian police chief already informed party and independent candidate representatives twice on November 9 and 11 that even walkabouts required permits.

In her question, Azalina asked Liew for the government’s justification for making candidates obtain permits for walkabouts and house-to-house visits as this had never been the case.

Liew’s answer dissatisfied Azalina who asked if the enforcement was because PH was losing popularity.

“The minister did not answer my question. Do you agree that this instruction had mala fide, or bad intentions? Even electoral watchdog Bersih disagrees with this illogical instruction. I ask if there’s bad intention.

“Second, Section 24 B of the Act is on public events but visiting homes is a private matter. One can construe that the government is being cowardly because it fears losing in the by-election and changing the rules in the middle of the campaign period,” Azalina said in her supplementary question.

In his reply, Liew accused Azalina of not hearing his answer properly. He further claimed that candidates were notified of the ruling as early as nomination day on November 2.

On November 12, Election Commission chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun issued a statement that walkabouts were considered as mobile campaigning and must have a clear timeframe and location for monitoring purposes.

He added that all parties and candidates contesting in the Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election have been reminded that a police permit is required for house-to-house campaigning.

This had invited a massive backlash from the Opposition and also by Bersih who claimed that the directive was “unreasonable”.

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