KUCHING: Engagements and consultations ought to be made by the Election Commission (EC) with regards to a decision on prohibiting ministers and politicians with government posts from campaigning during working hours.
“Is it confined to federal ministers and other portfolio holders? What about state ministers and politicians?
“What are the sanctions for non-compliance? We do not know as we don’t know the details yet. To me this is only ‘a feeler’ to see the people’s reaction,” said Santubong MP Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said when contacted by the New Sarawak Tribune yesterday.
“We have to see the EC’s drawing of the scope, parameters and implications of the rules. It’s too early to comment on the matter.”
The former Minister of Natural Resources and Environment also questioned if the matter was actually an initiative of the Election Commission or the federal government? Whatever the case may be, all the stakeholders must be informed.
“My understanding is that the EC is independent. If that’s so, then let’s hear it from the EC. There must be laws and regulations to back it up. Does it need to be brought to Parliament to be legitimised?” said Wan Junaidi.
What about political secretaries, special assistants and other political appointees with various labels across the political spectrum who are paid by the government? Are they also restrained from campaign work? What are their working hours? There are so many details that remain vague.
However, if the idea is from the federal government, of course Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has the prerogative to stop all his ministers, deputy ministers and others from campaigning during an election.
But can the Prime Minister do the same to state ministers, assistant ministers and excos without the law or regulation behind him?
“Therefore, engagements and consultations ought to be made. Once understanding and consensus is reached, I would welcome the decision,” said Wan Junaidi.
In October last year, EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun reminded Cabinet ministers and politicians with government posts not to campaign in the Port Dickson by-election during working hours. Port Dickson seat is now held by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Then last Tuesday (May 14), Dr Mahathir asked the EC to reconsider its policy. The conditions were considered grossly unfair to the government as they seemed to provide an opportunity for unemployed leaders of opposition parties to campaign round the clock.
This means that during working hours, they (cabinet ministers) have to be in their offices and not out campaigning. And even after office hours, ministers still work. They often work until 10pm.