[Malaysiakini] RM11.2 million spent for the past 16 by-elections since 2008
~ Joseph Sipalan
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz told the Dewan Rakyat today that handouts during election campaigns cannot be considered corruption.
Such assistance, he said, were part of BN manifesto's to help the people.
"We have promised to fulfil (our manifesto) ... sewing machine assistance for instance, if it is not given during the election, it will be given after the election. It's the same. Is this an offence?
"We cannot stop giving out assistance (during election) because we will still be providing such assistance after the election," he said in reply to Ab Azizi Ab Kadir (PKR-Ketereh) during question time.
In reply to another one of Ab Azizi's question, Nazri confirmed that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had received six complaints about electoral inducements between 2008 and 2010.
RM11 mil spent on polls
Meanwhile, Nazri also revealed that the government has spent a total of RM11.2 million over the course of 16 by-elections from 2008.
He said the expenditure for each by-election differed according to the location of the constituency, ranging from RM318,000 to as high as RM1.29 million.
The most expensive was the Batu Sapi by-election, where the government spent RM1.29 million, followed closely by Hulu Selangor, where a total of RM1.2 million was spent.
Other by-elections where the cost touched or exceeded a million ringgit were Tenang (RM1.1 million), Galas (almost RM1.05 million) and Sibu (RM1 million).
The 'cheapest' by-election was Bukit Selambau, which cost the government RM318,000 to hold.
“Holding a major event such as a by-election involves a large budget to support expenditure and services. This is because such events cover many aspects, such as transportation, lodging, food and drinks,” he said during Question Time.
Responding to a supplementary question from Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang), Nazri said the government did not waste public funds in holding the by-elections.
“If we cut corners, then Rantau Panjang will say the government did not do anything to stop fights (for example). To do something properly, you need money,” he said.
'Weather beyond our control'
Nazri also denied Siti Zailah's claim that the government had squandered money on road upgrading projects during the Tenang by-election last January, saying it is impossible for anyone to predict the weather.
“Our promise was to do the work. We wouldn't know if it's going to rain. If the other side has a direct line up there, then why don't you ask-lah,” he quipped.
Nazri pointed out that there is no law that forbids any party from making promises or carrying out a public service, such as building basic facilities, during the campaign period.
“The government is already aware of all these problems, and (the solutions) are only expedited during a by-election.
"The opposition has done the same in states that they control. It's okay for them to do it but it's not when others do... this is typical of the other side.”