When Bribes are incentives


July 27, 2013

When Bribes are incentives

by P. Gunasegaram (07-26-12)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

iQUESTION TIME: When money is handed out during a by-election, with those receiving them being registered and their particulars taken down, what is one to think? That it is an incentive to come back and vote? Or would it be a bribe to vote in favour of a party, especially when posters and flags of Barisan Nasional were everywhere evident?

Malaysiakini actually saw and recorded the event taking place in at least two houses of village chiefs during the recent Kuala Besut state by-election which was won by BN with an increased majority.

NONEFollowing the reports, one of the village chiefs came out with a rather strange defence to this very obvious and open instance of handing out money to voters. His main contention is that the money was merely an incentive for voters to return and cast their vote.

Here is Kampung Beris Lampu village chief Yaakob Kadir’s comment in verbatim to Malaysiakini: “If it were bribery, it would have been done quietly. We gave it (the incentive) to everybody regardless of whether they voted for BN or PAS. Returning voters would surely support PAS (anyway).”

Well, here was a person who was caught red-handed dishing out money to voters, something that would be considered bribery by most, especially if it is clearly obvious that the person who is giving out the money is a BN supporter. He has to come up with something to say to justify what he had been doing. That’s understandable.

But he gets support from an unexpected quarter – some would say an expected quarter – the Election Commission (EC). Amazingly, the EC said that the practice of giving transport allowance during elections is not considered a bribe, provided that no conditions are attached.

Aziz-EC ChairEC chairperson Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said the practice would violate the law if the person dishing out the transport allowance urged voters to cast their ballots for a particular candidate.

“I was made to understand by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission or MACC (for example in the case of Sabah and Sarawak voters returning home from the peninsula) that if the money is given to voters and the voters are just told to go back and vote, then it is not an offence.

“EC has not received any official complaint with regard to this matter,” he added in a text message to Malaysiakini. If that’s not flabbergasting, I wonder what else is.

Does a briber need to make his intention crystal clear to every single person and announce to the world that he is giving money to people to vote for a particular party, the BN, in this case before he he is deemed to have bribed? Surely no briber is going to do that but will couch his bribe in less subtle ways, although it was none too subtle in Kuala Besut?

Surely any reasonable person will look at the circumstances under which such bribes are given, the other evidence (such as posters, flags and the giver’s own voting preference) that the money is an inducement to vote in a particular manner?

Offering excuses instead

When those in authority refuse to acknowledge that bribes may have been given when the evidence is presented to them on a platter, but offer excuses instead, then one must inevitably draw the conclusion that they are not unbiased in the matter being investigated.

This entire episode is yet another incident which clearly demonstrates that the EC cannot be trusted to carry out its obligations without fear or favour and is in league with the ruling party to make elections more favourable to the BN.

azlanIt causes yet another dent to the badly scarred and scorned image of the EC which has been tarnished by the events such as the continued gerrymandering of election boundaries to make the concept of one-person-one-vote completely fiction, and the infamous indelible, edible, erasable ink catastrophe.

Malaysia needs to have free and fair elections. The principles of democracy such as one-person-one-vote, the right of all parties to be able to reach out to the electorate, a free and fair press, repeal of laws restricting personal freedom etc have to be believed and practiced for this.

Certainly, this is not the EC that will take the necessary steps towards this. That’s because its appointed by and answerable to government. That has to be changed but the question is who will do it?

Meantime such justification of open and clear-cut bribery – an inducement to vote for BN – by no less than the chairperson of the EC will only endear the commission to those who want elections to remain less than free, to further their own foul ambitions. Shame on you EC!


P GUNASEGARAM is founding editor of KiniBiz.

24 thoughts on “When Bribes are incentives

  1. All I can is that this EC Chairman is way over the top. He got his ethics screwed in order to please his bosses. His teachers and professors have done us a disservice by producing this character to grace God’s Earth. Take malu.–Din Merican

  2. Well said Din! When this is done openly what has Anti-corruption agency to say? When we take the matter with pictures as evidence to our beloved judges, they throw out the case as not enough evidence and fine the party that took the case to the court with exorbitant fees. What is happening in this country? How long have we to tolerate all this with people like in EC. They seem to justify before the case is taken to the court and look at the chiefs the way they speak like politicians. It looks EC is more powerful than the courts in this country. Disgusting!

  3. Tak malu atau Utk Negara, Jgn Malu?

    This country has two things very visible these days: Public allowed to say all they want and Policy implementers do whatever they wish. In short our legislators are utterly for show, no biji to ask show cause issues and greased to stay reasonably silent. …………….. We people are short-changed so many times over.

  4. A friend of mine voted the opposition and then queue to claim the money during the last GE. He was not asked to vote for BN. So as his brother. Is this a bribe? I dont think so. What about Pas that offered free petrol for those age 21 and above during the last Kuala Besut by election?

  5. Zack,
    Kindly pass this information to MACC. Plus, what’s your name, IC no? Lets do it singapore style. Are you dare to have full disclosure?

  6. I should add more that my friend was an outstation voter in Terengganu. And he claimed the money after voting. He was not asked to vote for any party and who he had voted. On related note, I saw posters about Pas giving free petrol for motorcyclists during the recent by-election and with condition stated only for those 21 years and above. I have no problem with this. I am just wondering why no opposition news portal highlighted this instead mentioned it in small para.

  7. Votes for cash? EC’s fault? C’mon these chaps have been talking about biometrics – when they can’t even get simple things like the disappearing edible ink sorted out. So they used ‘Perak’ in the ink this time huh?

    Biasa la.. That’s the rural cretins equivalent of ‘doing’ business.
    As if the voters in Besut knew the difference between bribes and freebies. The mentality of rent-seeking is truly pervasive for these folks. Conscience, is a function of gratification.

    Is it any different from free petrol to go vote? Yup. The difference is intention versus pretension and outright corruption. Oh how the Melayus, Chinapeks and Indians have fallen..! But Lamentations are useless, because cause and effect no longer gel.

    Btw, with all the goodies, diesel and whatnot subsidies to the fisher-folk – why should they bother to go fish? Seems that only those stupid Chinapek who’re in their sixties and seventies are catching the Kurau and Kembong.. Who cares about ikan bilis, siakap, sotong and udang, which is imported from our neighbours? So please stop telling UMNO to teach people to fish. They only know how to give stale fish. Imagine all those millions without making a significant dent on their majority?

    Even now, those authority fellas are thinking of importing Ayam.. Malaysia Boleh – all eat, play and no work!

  8. sad state UMNO is telling all malaysian when we do it not a crime, remember a lot of malays did not vote for UMNO so BN is telling those Malays you do not matter rise my brothers and right this wrong

  9. @zack at 11:33am,
    Well said zack. People the like of Gunasegaram are blindly biased to the core and will not listen to rational explanations. Why don’t PAS/PR do the same in cash instead of petrol issue?

  10. What about the use of religion to encourage people to vote Pas and discourage people to vote Umno. It is a form of bribery or incentive (disentive)? For the Malays religion is more valuable than material (money).

  11. Even PAS should be criticised for doing that. It is a form of vote buying. UMNO or PAS, vote buying is not on. They have the same mentality as goon Aziz of the EC. –Din Merican

  12. Where is the fun in that by too much restrictions? To be clear I never accept any money or whatever from political parties. I voted BN because I dont believe in Pas (because at my place it is only BN vs Pas). To accuse me of voting BN simply because of money is just plain insulting.

  13. Sad sad day for Malays and Malaysians, corruption is legal so long as UMNO/BN is the one doing it. Tun Tan Siew Sin warned this – the NEP would lead to this culture and Malays forever behind others..

  14. If there is no quid pro quo then is it a bribe? If a handout is given in exchange for a specific service or goods then it may constitute a bribe. But if given freely with no strings attached other than “please do A” or “please vote B”, its harder to prove its bribery because as some has indicated, they could take the “handout” and not be subject to quid pro quo.
    I suppose a handout is a bribe if there is clear evidence of quid pro quo (i.e. bangla voters). In the case of election handouts, its not so clear. Vote buying should be illegal but its harder to prove. A person might just feel “finally someone is helping me, giving me money, providing me the infrastructure, therefore I should vote for the person helping me”. In such a case, is the person receiving the money guilty of bribery? Or is he just a beneficiary of an economic handout? The beauty of being in government is, you can doll out handouts and claim they are economic in nature and therefore do not constitute bribe (or vote buying). In my opinion, hey, if one party promises to build a RM100 million mega sports complex in my housing area with 2 football pitch, 5 badminton courts, 4 tennis court, a futsal court, 4 basketball court, 2 olympic sized swimming pool and a driving range in exchange for my vote, I say hell yeah you have mine. But of course if the RM100 million mega sports complex is not there in 5 years, then I’ll say off you go (which I believe was pretty much what happened in Kedah). Its the price politicians pay to stay in power and every political party does it.

  15. If a BN guy gives me money to vote for BN, then he is stupid.
    If a BN guy promises to give me money to vote for BN and I did, then I’m stupid.
    Either way, it is not bribery. It’s a case of who is more stupid.

  16. Obviously,giving out money during election and collecting cash after election is corruption but they ambiguously term it as reimbursement of travelling expenses incurred to come home for election. Cash will only be paid if UMNO wins in the election. We need experts in criminal law to work out on the cash for votes as corruption.

  17. Yup, Ai Tze, stupidity is as stupidity was.

    The problem here is that it seems some commentators have taken what is essentially a moral-ethical issue into the realms of legalistic jargon. In which case free-choice, conscience and values don’t mean anything anymore. When has the Law ever prevailed in matters of conscience? Over here it’s rule by law, not of the law.

    How’s the weather in the Hebrides? I might join you, as i prefer a dose of skua vomit, than listen to these flurs squawking about about ‘legalisms’.

  18. Legalising and legitimizing corruption to a higher degree and making it into an acceptable norm. Will soon become more’ not the bubur type mind you.

  19. I think those who don’t think about the legal aspects of the problem is missing the point. A person earns RM200 a month, needs to feed a family of 5. One day a politician comes and says Bantuan Amanah RM600 dari Kerajaan. Sila undi Parti X. Now as a recipient of a no strings attached amount that is 3x what I earn a month, if people were to argue about morals, would I be not obliged to morally vote for the person that helped me substantially? Is the politician not a benefactor? With the RM600, I can feed my family of 5 for the next 3 months without work. Perhaps I can buy new Hari Raya clothing. Perhaps I could finally get an electric generator to light up the house at night? I mean those that are not seeing the economic aspects of “handouts” during election is not seeing the reason why it works. That is, not everyone has the luxury of being able to preach on morality because some people cannot live without it. That’s why the legal angle is necessary to stop vote buying. Perhaps, there is a rule or law in place that prevents handouts all together during elections? Even if its economic in nature? In other words, for 2 weeks before elections, no one, not even the government may issue new or additional monetary or non-monetary handouts to voters. Even if its economic in nature. Would that solve the problem? Perhaps. But at what cost? People living on the edge of poverty will be 2 weeks living in poverty.

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