GE13: What’s money politics?

Sunday April 14, 2013

By NIGEL EDGAR 

KUCHING: In any election it is not unusual to hear about allegations of money politics, but how is it defined?

Incumbent Santubong MP and lawyer Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said, technically, there is no such term as “money politics” in law books.

He defined the practice as anything that involved money to influence or change the minds of voters to favour the giver.

However, he said, government aid given every year based on its policies before or after elections did not fall under money politics.

“Money politics refers to people making use of money to get votes during elections. Based on this definition, it excludes what the government would normally practise, that is, giving out aid to the needy,” he told The Star.

For instance, the government giving RM200 living allowance to fishermen should not be defined as money politics because the provision would continue even after the elections.

“The practice of money politics in this sense is only something directly given to a recipient to buy his or her vote. It falls within a certain legislation of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) under the definition of corruption,” Wan Junaidi said.

Under Section 17(b) of the MACC Act 2009, a person who “corruptly gives or agrees to give or offers any gratification to any agent as an inducement or a reward for doing or forbearing to do, or for having done or forborne to do any act in relation to his principal’s affairs or business, or for showing or forbearing to show favour or disfavour to any person in relation to his principal’s affairs or business”, commits an offence that, upon conviction, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the sum or value of the gratification.

Because of that, Wan Junaidi said political parties had stopped the practice of organising big receptions before, during and after the polls, other than those held by and for their staff and election workers.

He said treating people to meals or dinners could not be considered corruption or abuse of power. “It certainly does not tantamount to money politics,” he added.

Nevertheless, Wan Junaidi believed that in a democratic country such as Malaysia, money politics must not be condoned.

He said democratic practices were defined as what a candidate or a person could do and eventually form a group that would support a party and form a government, which would then appoint the leader of the country.

He also believed that it was crucial to educate people about what constituted money politics and government aid.

“Money politics should not be condoned by any group of people because it is a matter of principle and it is very important that politics itself is clean from corruption.

“Because of that, it had been a standard procedure that every time after the Parliament is dissolved, all minor rural project and touchpoint funds of elected assemblymen and MPs are discontinued,” he said.

“The only thing that is given away are pending cheques which have been agreed upon long before the dissolution. Those who did not spend all their funds are required to return every single sen to the Treasury,” he said.

State PKR vice-chairman and lawyer See Chee How, however, begged to differ.

To him, although money politics is basically defined as an act of changing people’s minds through the use of money, anything that involves some form of inducements, promises and even threats in the polls are conside- red election offences and money politics.

“Even if it is only a pledge, it can be viewed as a corrupt practice as it is being done through promises or trades that may change the outcome of an election,” said See.

Unless the aid was given out of merit, or to assist the needy like the poor or the disabled, See said giving cash handouts were not healthy.

Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club chairman Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said money politics was still subjective because some quarters might question whether projects approved for a certain village or payment to party workers for work done during an elections would come under the definition.

“One needs to evaluate this matter on a case-to-case basis. Suffice to say that if a candidate or his agent gives out money to voters with the intention of getting votes, and the recipients get the monies as an inducement for them to vote for a particular candidate, then an act of money politics has happened,” said Abdul Karim, who is also a lawyer.

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