Tuesday, May 31, 2011
S'wak CM's office 'issued cheques to buy votes'
Malaysian Election Observers Network coordinator Ong Boon Keong has revealed more damning evidence of alleged vote-buying in the recent Sarawak elections, following an equally controversial video exposé of the alleged offence on May 26.
Ong is giving the authorities two weeks to act, failing which he will initiate a nationwide campaign to mobilise voters in rejecting all candidates who have a similar 'strategy' in mind for the coming general election.
He revealed photocopies of vouchers dated March 25 and 27 purportedly from the Chief Minister' s Office, showing that a payment of RM15,000 had been made to members of a longhouse and RM1,000 to another recipient.
Ong, who has been involved in registering voters in the interiors of Sarawak since 2009, said he was reliably informed by local observers that the payments were made after the dissolution of the state assembly on March 25.
He claimed that cheques for various amounts that tallied with the number of voters in each longhouse had been distributed at the Selangau BN office to about 200 tuai rumah (longhouse chiefs).
"The purpose is for the longhouse chiefs to distribute RM500 per door. The cheque was to be cashed, the chiefs were told, after the BN candidate won," he told reporters in Penang last night.
"On the eve of polling, there was a round of cash payments to individual voters, with each receiving RM50 or RM100. For example, in the Rumah Unban longhouse, the payment shown in the video was RM50 per voter."
Ong said the payments are questionable as they were “indisputably” meant to pressure voters to vote for a particular candidate.
His team also came across elements of deceit because multiple cheques had bounced, for example, due to spelling mistakes in the recipients' names.
Ong stressed that Tamin BN assemblyperson Joseph Mauh Ikeh's claim that the money was to subsidise transport expenses cannot stand against the more credible account of vote-buying by local observers.
"Mauh also called it a 'consolation' (sagu hati) payment to the voters. He should be told that such payments blatantly violate the Election Offences Act 1954, as they amount to bribery whether or not the voters eventually voted for him.
"Mauh's argument that 3,000 voters voted for his opponent does not mean that he did not try to induce voters to vote for him.”
Mauh, the Parti Rakyat Sarawak vice-president, had shot down the allegations, clarifying that the payments were a “transport allowance” for voters to get to polling stations, or an allowance for those involved in campaign work like putting up posters.
Ong had earlier released a video recording showing cash purportedly being distributed to voters in the Tamin state constituency, which was retained by the BN.
He said he finds the matter troubling as the money was from the allocation for the development budget administered by the Chief Minister's Office.
"As polls were called following the dissolution of the state assembly, any allocation from the state coffers to advance a candidate's campaign amounts to criminal theft!" he exclaimed.
Building on Mauh's (left) remark that payments may have been issued to voters in all 71 constituencies, Ong said the total amount of public funds used for the Sarawak BN campaign would amount to an astounding RM208 million for 979,796 voters.
The money needed to buy votes for Tamin alone, he noted, would amount to about RM2.6 million for 12, 224 voters.
"This amounts to gross criminality against the state and inordinate unfairness to the opposition (which has) no similar access to public funds," said Ong.
"More seriously, election results significantly distorted by vote-buying are unrepresentative of the real choice of the people and are therefore invalid.”
Last week, Ong was deported while on a visit to Sarawak in connection with the state election. He was not given a reason.
seals: I dont have to tell UMNO now to think of a reason ...as EC or Police or anyone will never take any action. Maybe they will say it was a long pending payments to them by government...