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Thursday, March 31, 2011

‘Of course it’s a bribe’


March 31, 2011

Low said enticement to voters cannot be seen as anything other than blatant corruption. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — Transparency-International Malaysia (TI-M) insisted today that any form of election handouts to voters was “outright” corruption, insisting that there should be no exception to the definition.

“Any form of enticement for votes, that is an outright form of corruption. What else can it be? Of course it is a bribe,” said TI-M president Datuk Paul Low.

Low’s remarks were in response to a statement made by Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz yesterday, in which the minister had told the anti-graft watchdog to “shut up” and “mind its own business.”

Nazri had refuted TI-M’s views on election handouts, citing a legal case to back up his arguments.

The minister had pointed out that a 1981 court case had ruled that it was not an offence but in line with the responsibility of the government to ensure development and allocate funds regardless of whether there was an election.

“This country has got a court system and our court has decided long time ago that it is not corruption. I just don’t give a damn about what they say on this. I only refer to the highest court decision which said that it is endowed fund and not bribery,” he told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.

Nazri was referring to the legal precedent established in the case involving the Pengkalan Kota by-election between Teoh Teik Huat and Lim Kean Siew.

The case revolved around a statement by then-finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who had said he would personally give more money for the improvement of Pengkalan Kota if Barisan Nasional (BN) won.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department had also told Parliament that handouts and goodies in the form of financial assistance to voters during elections was not a form corruption because it was the federal government’s way of “fulfilling its promises” and manifestos.

Nazri yesterday also expressed surprise over TI-M’s allegation the Election Commission (EC) had failed to show that they were “independent” in carrying out its duties even though they were guaranteed autonomy under the federal constitution.

“How do you get [an] independent EC? Where do the commissioners come from? From the heavens? Our system is that all of our commissioners are appointed by the (Yang di-Pertuan) Agong on the advice of the prime minister.

“Unless Transparency International can have a system whereby the people can come down from heaven to become commissioner then I will accept. Otherwise just keep your mouth shut and mind you own business,” he added.

Today, Low reiterated his earlier stand but stopped short of rebuking Nazri directly.

“Let’s just put it this way, from a TI-M point of view, we are clear in this. This is our stand.

“I don’t want to get into an argument with anyone over this,” said Low curtly.

Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers have consistently accused the EC of failing to be neutral during by-elections, resulting in numerous complaints to the commission.

The EC has, however, maintained that it is impartial and independent, denying allegations of bias towards BN. - Malaysian Insider

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