The hoo-hah over Dr M’s face on billboards.
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has condemned the incident where a picture of Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was cut out from a billboard in Ayer Hitam.
Criticising the enforcement officers for doing this, he said the action is unprofessional.
“I don’t agree and I don’t like what the enforcement officers have done.
“There are many ways to enforce the rules and regulations, but it is not proper to cut out the face of Dr Mahathir from the billboard,” Hishammuddin told reporters.
However, he noted that it is not ascertained if the enforcement officers are from the local council or the Elections Commission (EC).
“If the billboard is not right, bring it down, not cut the photos from the billboard.
“Even if rules were broken, what they did is not correct. I do not want to see such acts by enforcement officers whether it is for candidates from our party or the Opposition,” Hishammuddin said.
On Monday, enforcement officers had cut out the image of Mahathir from a giant billboard in Ayer Hitam, which also featured the faces of PH’s Ayer Hitam parliamentary candidate Liew Chin Tong and Yong Peng state seat candidate Chew Peck Choo.
Around noon, enforcement officers in yellow vests arrived at Jalan Utama 1 in Yong Peng, where the billboard was located.
The officers then cut out Mahathir’s image in the presence of Liew and his team.
Liew said the EC had also instructed him to remove all the posters and banners which featured Mahathir’s image.
According to the EC’s new guidelines, candidates can only use photos of only two leaders of a political party – the president and deputy president, or their equivalent – on campaign materials, other than the photo of the candidate.
As for the two leaders, they must be from the party which the candidate represents. Images of other officials are not permitted.
However, Liew dismissed the rule as nonsensical.
“Why can’t we put up Mahathir’s picture? He is the prime ministerial candidate for Harapan,” he said.
The enforcement officers also removed another of Liew’s billboard along Jalan Besar in Yong Peng.
The billboard had said that a vote for MCA’s Ayer Hitam candidate Wee Ka Siong was a vote for caretaker prime minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
The EC had previously asked for the billboard to be removed, citing that Rosmah was not an election candidate.
DAP subsequently cut out Rosmah’s picture.
However, enforcement officers removed the billboard anyway, despite a gaping hole where Rosmah’s face used to be.
In another incident in Penang, a poster of Mahathir in a billboard at Sungai Ara, Bayan Lepas, was cut out yesterday.
This time, Mahathir’s image with jailed PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was cut out from a poster after it was put up three days ago by PH members.
Bayan Baru PKR incumbent Sim Tze Tzin, who is defending his parliamentary seat, said he believes the cutout was likely done by EC officers.
“Why are you so scared of pictures of former leaders?” Sim questioned.
Meanwhile, Umno’s Nazri Aziz defended the EC’s decision to remove Mahathir’s image from billboards, saying it was in line with EC rules and it was the EC’s right.
“These rules aren’t new. Even I cannot have my image in posters in Putrajaya,” he said.
Nazri added that the EC knew their job well and wouldn’t intentionally victimise anyone.
In Negeri Sembilan, the EC has ordered PH to remove its billboards which feature images of Mahathir.
Negeri Sembilan DAP chief Anthony Loke said PH was given 12 hours to remove the 40 billboards.
“Even though we don’t have the heart to do this, we need to comply with the EC’s instructions as we will not have the time to put up new billboards before polling day,” said Loke, who will be contesting the Seremban parliamentary seat.
He said he was disappointed with the EC’s order as it should have shown some respect for Mahathir who was the former prime minister.
“Despite the fact that the EC has imposed this rule on us, we will not lodge a complaint about BN’s banners and billboards which feature MCA president Liow Tiong Lai shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“By right, according to the rules and regulations given by the EC, it is not right for BN to feature a Chinese president who has no association with Malaysia, and also Liow, who is not even contesting as a candidate in Negeri Sembilan. So why are their pictures allowed?”
Senior lawyer Mohd Haniff Khatri Abdulla has weighed in, saying the EC could be considered as committing an offence in removing the images of Mahathir from banners put up as election material.
He said that on Jan 7, PH declared that Mahathir would be the prime minister if the coalition wins GE14 and this was declared in its election manifesto.
Haniff said anything in the manifesto could be reproduced as stated in the Election Ethics regulations and since Mahathir had been announced as PH’s prime ministerial candidate, then his image could be used.
“The action done by the EC and a local council to remove Mahathir’s image and the images of candidates in Johor is illegal. Mahathir’s photograph and pictures can be used on buntings for the GE14
“There is no law to prohibit this,” he said.