28th March 2018
A REMINDER OF OFFENCES UNDER THE ELECTION OFFENCES ACT 1954
Over the last few weeks political leaders were heard making statements that threatened the fundamental rights and freedom of citizen of this country, as enshrined in the nation’s constitution, i.e., the rights and freedom to vote without physical abuse or verbal threats from individuals or groups. Such threat was aimed to cause fear and doubt in voters to vote for the candidate of their choice, and to silence voices of dissent against the ruling government.
Video recordings of two such leaders making unwarranted statements have gone viral, and in return is public rebuke and scorn. Patriot is shocked to view the video and to listen to the statement uttered by the two senior leaders of the incumbent government. Apparently these two leaders ignored or have failed to read Patriot’s statements appealing for political leaders from both sides of the divide to be rationale in their speeches, and to avoid instigating hatred towards their opponents in the run-up to the general election. Patriot would like to caution that a lot of such undesirable act or conduct might be an offence under the Election Offences Act 1954.
How could a politician who is a senior minister say to his audience that their votes could be monitored and they would know which candidate they vote for? This means the minister concerned had used threat and coercion, which is an offence of undue influence under Sect 9(1) of the Act. This is contrary to the assurance given by the Election Commission that the votes are secret and there is absolutely no chance for anyone to know once a vote has been casted.
More recently, a politician who is the Chief Minister of a state told his followers to use violence against anyone that criticize the government, and if they are being arrested by the police, he will bail them out. It was only after having received scornful remarks from the public that the Chief Minister said that his words were made in jest to inspire his audience. Such conduct, besides an offence under the Penal Code, is also an offence of promoting feelings of ill-will or hostility, contravening Sect 4A(1) of the Act.
Feedback that we received has led us to believe that the statement by the two politicians has affected voters, especially postal voters who are in the government services. Sect 3(1) of the Act, offences by any person, stipulated a wide range of offences. Obstructing voters through creating fear that voting may not be a secret is an offence under this Section.
With regards to postal voting and early voting, Patriot would like to reiterate our earlier statement that it should be made redundant except for certain groups that work off-shore, such as the navy, maritime, where the personnel are unable to return to base within the same day. If the Election Commission persists to conduct the postal voting and early voting as planned, Patriot is prepared to mobilise our members to be election agents to assist in monitoring a fair execution of postal voting and early voting in the military and police camps and establishments throughout our country. Patriot would like to remind that marking of ballot papers belonging to others, is an offence of personation under Sect 7 of the Act. Commanding officers and Adjutants failing to oversee the postal voting process be conducted legally, and any omission or commission of false recordings, may fall into the category of offences by election officers, Sect 4.
It is an undeniable fact that bribery in election, which falls under Sect 10 of the Act, is not uncommon. To stamp bribery in electing, Patriot suggests a mandatory forbidden of voters taking pictures of marked ballot papers using a cellular phone or any device. This is to prevent a voter showing prove to the person who bribes for votes. This can be done through strict monitoring and positioning of election agents and proper layout in the classrooms.
Patriot once again urges politicians from both sides of the political divide to cease making unjust and uncalled for statements that could raise doubts and fear among voters, and in particular among postal voters. Let the process of free and fair election proceed unhindered by abuse, corruption and threat, because a free and fair election is the very essence and hallmark of a democracy.
BG Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji (Rtd)
President, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan