Bersih 2.0: Widespread Vote-Buying in Villages During Sabah Polls

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Electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 has claimed there was vote-buying and bribery offences by almost all parties and candidates during the Sabah polls last month.

FMT

It claims most of these offences were committed by Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) and Warisan Plus.

The group claimed 59 different election offences committed by almost all parties and candidates.

It said 22 offences were committed by Warisan Plus and 18 by GRS. Eleven other offences were made by other parties or independents.

Bersih 2.0 observers also alleged there were reports of both Warisan Plus and GRS distributing RM100 to the people of Kampung Tinusa in Sandakan.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said their report was, however, not comprehensive as they had only 26 election observers covering 24 out of the 73 state seats in the state polls.

“This is just a sampling, but it’s quite obvious that money politics is still a big feature in the election in Sabah,” he said.

Fann said there appeared to be a “general disrespect for election laws” across the board by the major and local parties.

He said there were also instances of campaigners setting up “pondok panas” near polling stations, and the group suspected these huts were set up to distribute money to voters.

Fann also spoke of witnessing a Perikatan Nasional (PN) “pondok panas” distributing official Election Commission (EC) voter cards to the voters at the SK Bingkor polling centre in Keningau.

“All those voters who came to vote would go to the PN ‘pondok panas’ to collect their EC voter cards. As they were collecting them, the PN volunteers would also write down their voting channels onto a small piece of paper with the logo of PN on it.”

He urged the EC to investigate the incident, as it had given the impression that the EC was endorsing PN in that constituency.

“We would like an official response from EC that this is not something they endorse.”

Fann said the distribution could have been arranged by a local EC officer in the area. However, Fann said the “cooperation” had undermined the EC’s independence, adding that he would be lodging a report with the EC today.

Bersih observers also reported the misuse of government resources for campaigning.

As an example, Fann said, following the dissolution of the state assembly, then chief minister Shafie Apdal, from Warisan Plus, had announced land grants in several districts.

Shafie also announced a rent exemption for “pasar tamu” market lots.

Even though the announcement was made before the official campaigning date, the election observers were looking into any offences immediately after the dissolution of the state assembly.

“All political parties were well aware that there would be an election. Therefore, the campaigning period had already begun after the dissolution of the state assembly.”

Bersih has encouraged the public who had received money to vote to come forward and make police reports.

Fann said he would be submitting a report on Bersih’s findings to the EC today.

However, the Bersih chairman noted there had yet to be any action taken by police or the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on any reports lodged by observers or the public in previous by-elections. – FMT