The Election Commission must take immediate steps to ensure that the election laws in the country do not become a mockery, creating a situation where an election is declared null and void because of money politics and vote-buying but the candidate concerned is not disqualified
This is one consequence of the Bukit Begunan case, where the Sarawak election court judge, Mr. Justice Ian H.C. Chin had rightly declared the election of the National Front candidate Mong Anak Dagang in the Sarawak State General Elections on Sept. 8 and 9 last year as null and void because of general bribery and vote-buying during the campaign.
However, Mr. Justice Chin cleared Mong Anak Dagang of the charges of excessive spending and vote-buying in the election, allowing him to contest in a new by-election on the ground that there was no evidence to show that Mong had spent more than the statutory limit of RM$30,000 in the election.
As it has been established that there had been excessive spending and corrupt electoral practices, as to lead to the judge declaring the election null and void, the election laws must be amended to place the onus of proof in such circumstances on the candidate concerned to prove that he had no knowledge nor consented to such excessive electoral expenditures - failing which, the candidate concerned should also be disqualified as having committed election offences.
Recently, the government is proposing to hold nightspot owners responsible criminally and to charge them as collaborators in drug trafficking if their patrons are caught for drug abuse at their premises.
This is very controversial and could lead to injustices.
The government is not asked to introduce similar laws for candidates to deal with the problem of bribery and vote-buying in elections, but to place the onus of proof on the candidate concerned to prove that he had no knowledge and had not consented to such corrupt electoral practices.
In fact, the Malaysian court has a very clear legal precedent in the case of Ali Amberan v. Tunku Abdullah in 1970 where the then Mr. Justice Raja Azlan Shah held that under the "rule of extended scope of agency", the political party and its prominent members are to be regarded as "agents" of the candidate when they, with the candidate’s consent, either expressly or by necessary implication, campaigned for him.
If the principle laid down in the Ali Amberan v. Tunku Abdullah case had been applied strictly in the Bukit Begunan case, Mong would have been disqualified from standing in the by-election to be fixed by the Election Commission.
The election laws should be tightened up to provide that a candidate should also be disqualified if there had been excessive expenditure or vote buying in the campaign which had been carried out by his agents.
Such a tightening up of the election laws to stamp out excessive spending and vote-buying is urgent, because money politics had become very rampant in Sarawak state general elections.
Even the SUPP President and Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Dr. George Chan has admitted that money politics had infected Sarawak although he has tried to minimise its seriousness. In actual fact, money politics had been the bane of Sarawak electoral politics for the past three decades, and everyone should stop pretending as if it does not exist - as it is open secret that it is not uncommon for millions of ringgit to be spent just for one state constituency in Sarawak state general elections.
Last October, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad wept when he spoke about the evils and dangers of corruption and money politics when opening the UMNO General Assembly.
The Election Commission’s preparedness to combat money politics in elections by proposing necessary amendments to the election laws will be another test as to whether the country is ready for a serious campaign against corruption and money politics, or is still at the level of "talk only" without any follow-up actions.