KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 – Umno acknowledged today the existence of flights ferrying voters to key states, but said it was part of the party’s “get out the vote” campaign.
Party secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor also said the flights were paid for by “friends” of Barisan Nasional (BN), Reuters reported this evening.
He denied the accusation earlier today by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that the Election Commission (EC) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) were involved in an operation to transport more than 40,000 dubious voters from Sabah and Sarawak to key states in the peninsula.
Tengku Adnan said the flights were normal electoral practice.
“The flights in question were organised and paid for by friends of Barisan Nasional. They brought registered voters to their home districts so that they may vote in the upcoming election,” he said in a statement reported by Reuters.
This evening, the Prime Minister’s Office also denied any involvement in the opposition’s claim that Malaysians, as well as, foreigners are being flown in to the peninsula to vote in Sunday’s polls.
A government spokesman said that “the Prime Minister’s office denies any involvement in these flights,” the national news agency Bernama reported this evening.
“The Election Commission has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the electoral system is stronger than ever, and the elections are free and fair,” the spokesman added.
The opposition leader had said earlier that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has “credible” documentary evidence that groups of foreign nationals have been brought in on 16 daily chartered flights, including the usage of a Boeing 747, since April 25.
Among the evidence was a copy of email correspondence allegedly issued from the PMO, in which details of the purported operation were discussed.
“We have credible documentary evidence that these groups of foreign nationals are being transported from the airports to various sequestration points within Selangor/Kuala Lumpur and the other affected states using transport provided by various government agencies as well as chartered bus operators,” Anwar (picture) told a press conference here.
The information on the flights was provided by staff from flag carrier MAS and budget airline AirAsia, the PKR de facto leader said.
Anwar also alleged of a surge in arrivals of foreign workers from Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan and Myanmar through Bukit Kayu Hitam as well as those from Indonesia through Port Klang and other coastal entry points.
National carrier MAS has also denied allegations that it is deploying chartered flights to transport phantom voters.
“Malaysia Airlines wishes to clarify that all chartered flights in the national carrier’s system are commercial chartered flights,” The Star quoted the company as saying.
Electoral fraud is a sensitive issue in Malaysia, where a civil society movement has sprung up to demand electoral reforms in increasingly large street protests. A narrow victory by the ruling coalition on Sunday could trigger allegations of cheating and calls for more street protests.
Sabah is a key entry point for foreigners from the Philippines and Indonesia, who have fuelled a five-fold surge in Sabah’s population since the early 1970s and turned it into a vote bank for the ruling coalition.
A Royal Commission of Inquiry is currently under way in Sabah to investigate allegations that immigrants were given identity cards in exchange for voting for the government under a secret plan approved by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in the 1980s.