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Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 19th April 2009: 

BN not contesting Penanti by-election unconvincing unless Najib prepared to end all “political games” and undo the worst case of “too much politicking” by dissolving Perak State Assembly to allow Perakians to elect the government of their choice

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is advocating that Umno and Barisan Nasional not contest the Penanti state by-election in Penang following the resignation of Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s Mohamad Fairus Khairuddin as Penanti state assemblyman, giving as reasons that such a by-election was not in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution and a waste of public funds.

Led by the Gerakan “Super Minister” Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, who praised Najib for the “good idea for BN not to participate in a by-election caused by strategic intrigue or aimed at resolving Pakatan Rakyat’s internal predicament”, the other Barisan Nasional parties quickly competed to express support for Najib.

The only lone voice was MIC President, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu who said BN should contest in Penanti to safeguard its integrity, prestige and image as the BN should not be “frightened of the opposition”. Samy’s views must have panicked the other MIC leaders, causing the MIC secretary-general and Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr. S. Subramaniam to openly declare support for Najib’s “no contest” idea to contain Samy’s “damage”.

The mainstream media also swung into action to support Najib by reporting that the five by-elections since the March general elections last year have cost Malaysian taxpayers RM33.4 million, comprising:

  Election Commission Police
Permatang Pauh RM 409,000 RM 2.5 million
Kuala Terengganu RM 580,000 RM 11.5 million
Bukit Gantang RM 600,000 RM 7 million
Bukit Selambau RM 400,000 RM 5 million
Batang Ai RM 400,000 RM 5 million
Total RM 2.4 million RM 31 million = RM 33.4 million

Actually, the total expenses incurred in the five by-elections are many times the total of RM33.1 million- easily by six or seven-fold - if the election expenditures of the competing political parties are taken into consideration.

The expenses incurred by the Pakatan Rakyat in the five by-elections would be negligible when compared to the total of RM33.4 million incurred together by the Election Commission and the Police.

Pakatan Rakyat candidates do not exceed the maximum expenditures permitted candidates under election laws – which is RM200,000 for a parliamentary candidate and RM100,000 for a state assembly candidate. This would mean a ceiling of RM800,000 for three parliamentary and two state assembly by-elections held since the general election last year.

How much did Barisan Nasional spend for the five by-elections, using not only party funds but also public funds, resources and machinery?

It has been estimated that the Barisan Nasional spent RM70 million in Batang Ai by-election alone. I will not be surprised if an independent and professional audit comes to a total figure of Barisan Nasional expenditures for the five by-elections in the region of some RM200 million, i.e. six or seven-fold of the RM33.4 million incurred jointly by the Election Commission and Police.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department responsible for Law and Parliament, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz is even talking about amendments to the Constitution to stop by-elections except in specific cases like if a member of parliament or state assembly member dies, is declared bankrupt or is disqualified because of criminal convictions.(Nanyang)

Nazri forgets that the Barisan Nasional does not command two-thirds parliamentary majority and it cannot amend the Constitution at its whim and fancy.

The problem is not the holding of by-elections but the corruption of the entire electoral process where elections and by-elections have become obscenely expensive. For Barisan Nasional, a by-election is a just splurge of money, not just in millions of ringgit but tens of millions of ringgit, often with the misuse and abuse of public funds!

If the election law is strictly enforced, with each candidate limited to RM200,000 for Parliament and RM100,000 for state assembly contest, and political parties banned from incurring any expenditures, and the expenditures for the Election Commission and the Police as incurred in the five by-elections slashed by 50% and 80% respectively, the question of by-elections being “a waste of time, energy and money” would not arise.

The ballooning of election expenditures to prohibitive levels for Barisan Nasional candidates is one indicator of how corruption in Malaysia has completely got out of hand in the past decade!

Najib’s talk of the Penanti by-election as against “the spirit of the Constitution” and his disapproval of “political games” are most artful and artificial as he had been the practitioner of the most divisive “political games” in recent history – the two-and-a-half-month-long political and constitutional stalemate in Perak as a result of the undemocratic, unethical, illegal and constitutional power grab orchestrated by him in early February, producing two Mentris Besar, two Perak Assembly secretaries and one Democracy Tree!

It is utterly hypocritical to talk about “the spirit of the Constitution” on the one hand while on the other, precipitating the unethical, undemocratic and illegal power grab in Perak, based on the defection and disloyalty of three Assembly members who have gone into hiding and dared not appear publicly in the past 10 weeks because of their guilty conscience!

Although Najib talks glibly about “too much politicking in our country when we should instead be concentrating on restoring the economy and ensuring the country’s future”, Umno politicking is going on unchecked as evident from the worsening of the Trengganu Umno crisis with 10 Umno State Assemblymen increasing to 17 (including Exco members) who want to topple Terengganu Mentri Besar, Datuk Ahmad Said.

This is why all talk of the Barisan Nasional not contesting Penanti by-election because it is against the spirit of the Constitution and a waste of public funds are most unconvincing unless Najib is prepared to end all “political games” and undo the worst case of “too much politicking” by dissolving the Perak State Assembly to allow Perakians to elect the government of their choice.

Far from winding down , the Perak political and constitutional stalemate is heading towards a new confrontation. Although the Federal Court decision on Thursday purportedly to declare that the Perak Speaker V. Sivakumar’s decision on Feb. 18, 2009 to suspend the usurper Mentri Besar Datuk Zambry Abdul Kadiar by 18 months and his six executive councillors by 12 months were invalid, the Federal Court declined to issue another declaration sought that the Tree State Assembly on March 3 and its resolution to suspend Zambry and the six exco members were also invalid. As such Zamry and his six exco members remain suspended from the Perak State Assembly!

If Najib is sincere and serious in wanting all Malaysians to “fight economics” and stop “fight politics” in the face of the worst global economic recession in a century, let him meet Pakatan Rakyat leaders to work out a political understanding to end all “political games” during this period, covering not only Penanti by-election but also the undemocratic, unethical, illegal and unconstitutional power grab in Perak!

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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