NB: This press statement was released on 28.12.2012.

A recent exposé by Perak PKR has alleged that the Department of Orang Asli Development (Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli or Jakoa) in Tapah has been conducting mock voting sessions in order to “train” the local Orang Asli to vote for the BN.

It is further claimed that not only were the Orang Asli forced to cast their votes for the BN in full view of Jakoa officers and Chenderiang assemblyman Dr Mah Hang Soon, they were subsequently rewarded with 5kg of rice each.

As if this allegation of abuse of power and vote-buying is not bad enough, Election Commission (EC) deputy chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar has been quoted by the media as saying that the alleged incident was a “perfectly acceptable and normal” exercise of “voter education” by the BN.

Wan Ahmad further justified the donation of rice in exchange for votes as acceptable as he reasoned that it would only be an offence if it is “given during the campaign period”.

Such a response by the EC is shocking and incredulous to say the least. How can the EC, which is a public institution entrusted to regulate elections in an unbiased manner, so boldly attempt to whitewash such an unethical act, and on top of that one that was alleged to have been conducted in collusion with a publicly-funded government department?

Furthermore, is the EC actually saying that vote-buying is acceptable as long as it is not done during an election campaign? How does that make any sense at all? Can we therefore say that it is acceptable for a student to cheat as long as he is not doing it during an exam?

Clearly, the EC and the BN have no respect whatsoever for the democratic rights of Malaysian citizens. But while it is expected for the BN to attempt such Machiavellian chicanery, it is completely unacceptable for the very institution that is tasked to protect our electoral system to condone vote-buying and political corruption in the guise of “voter education”.

These irresponsible remarks, coupled with earlier allegations surrounding the chairman and deputy chairman’s membership of a certain political party, have severely compromised the integrity of the EC. There is now no way out but for the entire EC to resign in order to preserve what little credibility is left of the institution.

Zairil Khir Johari, DAP Assistant National Publicity Secretary