Home Media statements 2016 Media Statements Sarawak polls: Don’t sell your votes, says Najib; but who’s buying?

Sarawak polls: Don’t sell your votes, says Najib; but who’s buying?

Prime Minister Najib Razak, centre, posed with Muslim and Christian figures in Sarawak in April after presenting them with cheques. Photograph: Suzanne Lee/Wall Street Journal

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It is unbridled bribery: hundreds of millions of ringgit pouring into Sarawak to display a new-found concern and compassion for Sarawakians who have been totally ignored and sidelined by 47 years of uninterrupted Barisan rule in Sarawak.

The BN is so desperate to win by a massive landslide that it has thrown ethics to the wind and blatantly resorted to high-handed tactics to deny the Opposition a fair and free election.

The Election Commission, it would seem, has turned a blind eye to the BN’s violations of election rules on corruption and inducement to buy votes. It is not disturbed by unethical behaviour that is taking place in Sarawak.

According to Bersih, “It is unfettered political financing where state and federal funds are audaciously used to finance candidates’ winning.”

The Wall Street Journal observed, “The leader has left little to chance, pledging on recent visits to Sarawak to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in government funds toward the state and even holding his cabinet meeting there this week as ministers campaigned for local candidates allied to his United Malays National Organization.”

It continued, “During Mr Najib’s recent visits he was seen distributing checks to mosques and churches during a ceremony surrounded by political allies, in a typically Malaysian hands-on style of campaigning. He didn’t say why he presented the checks.”

“Sarawak politics is all about money, nothing is an issue,” said Nicholas Mujah, secretary of the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association, who helps the indigenous group fight land rights cases. “Election is like fruit season, it’s time to get money.”

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The Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, without batting an eyelid, brazenly announced RM250,000 in allocation for the Royal Malaysian Police’s General Operations Force (PGA), Kuching camp, a day before its members are set to cast their votes in advance voting.

An allocation of RM100,000 was for a surau and chapel respectively for Muslim and Christian PGA members, while another RM50,000 was for the Police Families Association (Perkep).

Zahid said he would also consider Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar’s request for an allowance hike for his men, but indicated he would like to first see how they would vote.

Zahid, who is also BN elections director, announced the allocation of RM100,000 to the longhouses in Sibu. “For this longhouse and also those under the care of the Maling longhouse chief, I allocate gifts of RM2,000 per house. With 50 houses that makes it RM100,000,” he said to the applause of the longhouse inhabitants.

Money did not seem to be the problem. It was aplenty for the asking and giving. At every opportunity, money was doled out, and the intention for doing so was very evident.

Already money is being given out in envelopes. With less than 48 hours left before Sarawakians cast their ballots, at an event titled ‘Leaders with Rela programme’, officiated by Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed along with BN candidate for Tasik Biru Henry Jinep, this took place. About 900 Rela personnel as well as members of the public flooded Dewan Suarah Bau where the function was held.

There are many witnesses, we are told, to support this claim. Whether anything comes out of it in spite of solid evidence is left to be seen.

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But the truth is Sarawakians have been left behind their counterparts in the Peninsula. There is still no electricity and treated water to the vast majority of people in the rural areas. There is no access to their villages, and they have no means to seek medical help when urgently needed.

Many believe it was meant to be that way so that they will be beholden to the BN for handouts periodically.

The newly announced Pan-Borneo Highway in Sarawak never took off in the past so that the Opposition could be kept at bay and have very little chance or reaching remote areas.

Suddenly all this has become an urgent issue for the BN so that they can deny the Opposition any breakthrough.

Adenan Satem is touted as the great leader who is here to solve all the problems of Sarawakians within five years. But don’t forget that he was part of a regime that was so corrupt and oppressive without speaking up against the excesses.

What did he say about the Bible issue, the Native Customary Rights land problem, the forced conversions of students and others by deceit, the rape of Penan girls and women, and many other issues that were plaguing many sectors of the community in Sarawak?

Now he wants SUPP leaders to be elected so that he can appoint a Chinese deputy chief minister so that the Chinese can be represented in his cabinet.

What good will it do to the Chinese? During the heyday of the SUPP, the Chinese were adequately represented – but why did the Chinese become disillusioned with the BN and turn to the Opposition?

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The voters of Sarawak must realise that for 47 years they were begging for benefits – and what have they reaped? Now, even with the BN promising them the moon, they have still not come out of the doldrums.

What they should do is accept the money and deny the BN the two-thirds majority. The next time around, they will be bribed even more handsomely.

Najib has very clearly given Sarawak voters the message rather unwittingly: “They (voters) must think of long-term development in their areas and not look for short-term gains by selling their votes to those willing to offer money.”

More advice from Najib that must be taken seriously: “… votes are the rights of the people to determine their future by choosing the right candidate to ensure development in their area and not be duped by those who are out to ‘buy’ their way to fame.”

You know who is buying votes!

As Epictetus said wisely, “If you seek truth you will not seek victory by dishonourable means, and if you find truth you will become invincible.”

For Adenan, it may be useful to remember: “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein.

P Ramakrishnan
Aliran executive committee member
6 May 2016

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