Don’t hold early polls, Bersih tells PM

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Polls watchdog Bersih said it was alarmed with the government’s decision to table its budget three weeks earlier than usual, fearing that this was a sign of early polls.

It said Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob should not bow to pressure from certain quarters in Umno for an early general election, to save kleptocrats from justice in court.

It added that all parties should instead support a new convention of ‘fixed-term parliament’ by allowing the 14th Parliament to dissolve only on July 15 next year.

“If supporters of kleptocrats get their way, then the ‘two-class’ phenomenon would be institutionalised – government politicians would be spared from any legal consequences for breaking laws and robbing the people, as long as they can win elections.

“We call upon the prime minister to stand firm on his promise to not interfere in the judiciary by rejecting the call for an early election.

“He must remember his mandate comes from parliament, not Umno,” Bersih said in a statement.

The watchdog also urged Ismail to quickly implement key reforms, including separating the public prosecution from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).

Such a separation would eliminate selective prosecution and impunity by the AG, who is a political appointee and whose decision may be influenced by political considerations, Bersih added.

It said that after the next polls, if the AG withdraws all charges against Najib Razak in his remaining cases, nothing can be done by any judges, and Najib would walk away a free man after receiving royal pardon in the SRC International case.

Barisan Nasional leaders have been reported as saying parliament could be dissolved after the budget is tabled.

The change in budget date comes days after pressure from Umno for the prime minister to call for an early election.

Yesterday, former Malaysian Bar president Ambiga Sreenevasan urged the prime minister not to hold the general election to save the necks of a few warlords.

Training her guns on “Umno warlords”, she said Parliament should not be dissolved merely to “save the necks of one, maybe two or three persons.”

“These ‘warlords’ must never be allowed to govern again. Ever,” she was quoted as saying.

They do not even blink at sacrificing the nation and its people just to protect a few. And they do it with such arrogance and a sense of entitlement. They respect no institutions and believe they are above the law,” she charged.

Although Ambiga did not mention names, it was evident that one of the “necks” which she referred to belonged to Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is facing a slew of corruption charges.

On Aug 20, Zahid, who is also BN chairperson, said that Umno risked losing the general election if it was not held this year.

He claimed that BN was in a strong position and that it would be unwise to stall the polls to allow its political rivals to keep launching attacks.

According to Ambiga, holding an election at this point would be irresponsible.

“The people are sick and tired of this relentless agitation for some people to be excluded from the application of the law. It is so apparent that these warlords do not care for the people.

“At this point, there is a level of calm and stability. Some commendable pieces of legislation have been passed. There is no reason for there to be elections.

“If there are elections because of their shenanigans, then I sincerely hope they will be punished and never allowed back into power again,” she added.