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Call to Electoral Commission to monitor Tanjung Piai by-election

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Nominations for the Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election in Johor will be made on 2 November.

The by-election, scheduled for 16 November, was called as a result of the passing of the incumbent Dr Md Farid Md Rafik.

In the past two weeks alone, the Pakatan Harapan government, through various ministries, has announced projects worth millions of ringgit.

Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman revealed a RM4m federal allocation to upgrade sports and recreational facilities in Tanjung Piai. He later said these were not new plans and he was only responding to media enquiries about the development of sports in the area.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub announced a RM14m plan to upgrade three fishing jetties in Tanjung Piai. He defended his move by saying “it is the job of the minister to make announcements based on guaranteed allocations and revenues, as well as policies”. He said he was not “allergic” to by-elections. “I will do it all the time and not wait for certain times.”

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin said his ministry would be giving 3,000 grouper fish seeds and two high-density polyethylene cages (worth RM50,000 each) to fishermen affected by water pollution in Kukup, adjacent to Tanjung Piai.

When the ruling government was criticised for such vote-influencing, if not vote-buying, tactics, the prime minister responded almost flippantly that the announcements of the projects were “a mere coincidence”.

This is a disturbing trend. Aliran expects more from this Pakatan government. In the past when these politicians were in the opposition, they would be the first to object to any abuse of power and resources derived from the advantage of incumbency.

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Many Malaysians voted PH into power on the premise that the abuse of power by the previous Umno-BN government would be curbed. So the PH government should show us how they are different from the old Umno-BN coalition, not imitate their money politics

Aliran also notes that the Electoral Commission has explained that it is not the proper authority to determine whether such acts (announcements of projects and allocations) contravene election laws.

If that is really the case then, then the Electoral Commission must propose ways to increase their powers so that it can ensure the government of the day does not exploit the powers of incumbency in any election. Elected members of Parliament should also make proposals to reform the Election Act to give the commission the necessary powers to check any abuse.

Aliran supports free and fair elections. We call upon the Electoral Commission to be extra vigilant in this by-election to check that all parties abide by the rules and ensure that any attempt at vote-buying or abuse of the power of incumbency is checked. If necessary, violators should be hauled up and made to answer for their actions.

Aliran executive committee
24 October 2019
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