On 24 January Sabah Bersih 2.0 released its observation report on the recent P176 Kimanis by-election.
Sabah Bersih 2.0 recorded 25 election offences during the election period. The offences include the use of government resources (eight cases), the giving of treats (three cases) and offences on polling day (14 cases).
There was an increase in offences compared to Sandakan by-election last year especially the announcements of allocations and projects for development in Kimanis. Eight allocations and projects were announced by the state and federal governments during the election period. The total value of the development allocation announced was RM12.8m.
On 5 January 2020 the Sabah Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick announced a RM3m project to upgrade basic infrastructure in 10 villages, and the first village to be chosen as “Kampung Sejahtera” was Kampung Tiong Baru Membakut. He also announced an allocation of RM100,000 to upgrade the road leading to the church and Dewan Kampung Tiong Baru, and a bus stop. Ewon also donated RM5,000 to the village community council (MPKK) of Kampung Tiong Baru Membakut for the village administrative work.
On the same day, the Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister Peter Anthony also announced a new allocation of RM12m to repair two bridges: the Binsulok and Baitam bridges. He also approved road upgrade projects in Bukit Manggis, Bongawan which is estimated to cost RM156m and will benefit 11 villages.
On 11 January Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal announced that the state government was looking into the possibility of setting up a new district office in Kimanis to make it easier for its residents to perform government-related transactions; at present, they have to refer to two other district offices, either in Papar or Beaufort.
The increase in government announcements of allocations and projects also happened in the Tanjung Piai by-election and continued during the Kimanis by-election although Bersih 2.0 had reminded the political parties numerous times in the past that the act of using government resources and announcement of projects during election periods is unethical.
Elections should be based on the principle of clean and fair elections to provide a level playing field to all contesting parties and to ensure that the people can evaluate their choices without undue influence. The use of government resources during election periods is unethical because resources should be managed and used for the benefit of all and not for the ruling party to gain votes.
Most election offences were committed on polling day, particularly in canvassing for votes at almost all polling stations that we observed. Barisan Nasional and Pas canvassers were more aggressive in showing their presence in polling stations, wearing BN shirts and waving BN flags and posters of their candidate. Warisan canvassers did not wear their party shirts or logo but showed the V-sign hand gesture as a symbol to vote for their candidate, whose name was listed second on the ballot paper. Canvassing for votes is an election offence under Section 26(1)(e)(iii) of the Election Offences Act 1954.
The transporting of voters could also be seen during polling day. We saw many vehicles being used to transport voters but could not identify if they were BN or Warisan voters. But our observers spotted a bus with a Warisan flag affixed to it being used to transport voters at the Membakut II National Secondary School and the Binsulok National School.
We identified one BN “pondok panas” in the St Patrick Membakut Secondary School polling station.
We urge the enforcement team (PPKPR) and the Electoral Commission to strictly prohibit campaign activities such as the canvassing of votes and the transportation of voters during polling day as these offences clearly violate the Section 20(3) and (4) of the Election Offences Act. In addition, the enforcement team also needs to be stricter in shutting down the pondok panas because it is against Section 26 (c) of the Election Offences Act.
Although law enforcement involving election offences is lacking, the Electoral Commission generally managed to conduct the election smoothly. There were many improvements to voting facilities compared to the previous by-election such as the proactive action to build ramps and cemented roads to the polling stream to facilitate the disabled and the elderly.
The Electoral Commission built a makeshift voting centre at the Binsulok National School specifically for the disabled and the elderly. The use of cameras at each polling stream is also a good way to identify any issues that may arise during the voting process.
Bersih 2.0 again wishes to urge the government to amend the Election Offences Act to make the use of government resources and announcements of new provisions or projects for the purpose of campaigning an election offence.
Elections, as the backbone of democracy in our country, should be run cleanly and fairly to ensure a level playing field for all political candidates. We would also like to suggest a two-day cooling-off period for the general election and one day for the by-election so that campaigning activities will cease before polling day and voters can go out to vote with a calm and rational mind.
The full report of the P176 Kimanis by-election can be downloaded from our website.
Sabah Bersih 2.0