KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — Election watchdog Bersih has marked the home minister and the defence minister as potential candidates for its online blacklist for statements and conduct it says are unbefitting of free and fair elections.
Anyone of any party found to have violated the code of conduct governing the impending elections launched by the watchdog today will also be publicly named and shamed on the Bersih website (www.bersih.org) so that voters can decide for themselves who they want to vote for, said Bersih co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.
“We are going to keep an eye on all 222 candidates... Whoever breaches the code, we will take them to task,” she warned at a news conference at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall today.
In a speech in Gombak here on March 24, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had done nothing while the 1,000 Umno Youth supporters incited violence against PKR’s Chua Tian Chang by shouting “Kill Tian Chua”, Ambiga alleged.
Bersih steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah also drew attention to Defence Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s tweet yesterday as an incitement of violence.
“We shall move to the warzone to kill all adversed [sic] political intruders,” Zahid Hamidi tweeted (@Zahid_Hamidi) yesterday at 12:50pm after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the dissolution of Parliament.
The home minister and defence minister will be given the chance to respond and rectify these allegations before their names are blacklisted, said Ambiga.
She also told The Malaysian Insider that the deadline for their response will be decided by a special Bersih committee, members of which will be announced tomorrow, to make sure the code is followed.
The code will be sent out to the EC and all political parties by tomorrow, she said.
“As far as I’m concerned, whether they confirm or not, we will hold them to these guidelines,” Ambiga added, when asked if she was looking for a formal pledge by the parties.
The code lays out rules such as the prohibition of hate speech, smear campaigns and any encouragement of intimidation and violence, and provides for the freedom of journalists and election observers to do their jobs.
“It is the responsibility of the political parties and the candidates to ensure compliance of this code by their campaign workers, volunteers and supporters,” Bersih said in a press statement.
Ambiga said the opposition was going into the impending elections with a disadvantage and appealed to the government to make the playing field more level for all parties.
“The electoral roll we can’t do much about anymore already,” she conceded, and called on Malaysian voters to turn out in huge numbers.
“But everything else can be done. Very doable,” she added, noting in particular that all parties should be given access to free and fair media.
As part of this push, Ambiga said that Bersih would appeal to the government-owned Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) to give opposition parties the same amount of airtime that would be available to the ruling coalition to present their manifestos.
“What has been offered by the government is 10 minutes to each party. You judge, is that enough? That’s a joke.”
She also said the segments must not be pre-recorded, but must be broadcast live and on prime-time television.
At the press conference today, Bersih also announced its guidelines for Najib’s caretaker government, on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform.
“Since no one was interested in issuing guidelines for the caretaker government, we have taken it upon ourselves to do so,” Ambiga said.
“They can continue delivering services and continue to provide security, obviously, to everybody without fear or favour,” she said.
However, Ambiga said, “they must not do anything that can bind the incoming government.”
When asked if the 24 deals worth RM4.2 billion signed by the government at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) were constitutional, Ambiga said they were indeed legal as the ruling government only becomes a “caretaker” from the date of Parliament’s dissolution.
“But I question the morality of doing that when you know you’re going to dissolve in two weeks,” she added.
She also said: “The use of government machinery is strictly prohibited for the purposes of campaigning for your party. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But it has happened.”