Friday, January 23, 2009

3 Umno men charged - Malaysiakini

KUALA LUMPUR - AN UMNO grassroots leader and two others were charged in court yesterday with buying votes in the party elections last year, while a senior party official was hauled up for questioning over the same matter.

The three men were charged as Umno sought to get tough with corruption within its ranks by using the court system instead of its own disciplinary board, which had been judged to be ineffective.

A vice-chief from a party division in Perak, Azman Noh, was charged with giving a RM300 (S$125) bribe in the divisional elections last October.

Contractor Johari Ibrahim was accused of giving RM200 to a delegate for the division polls in Malacca, while school senior assistant Junaidi Abdul Hamid was charged with giving RM200 each to two delegates in Pahang's division elections.

Contractor Johari Ibrahim was accused of giving RM200 to a delegate for the division polls in Malacca, while school senior assistant Junaidi Abdul Hamid was charged with giving RM200 each to two delegates in Pahang's division elections.

The sums involved look small, but a typical vote buyer allegedly has to pay off several hundred people to ensure a win.

The three men pleaded not guilty, and have been released on bail pending trial.

The newly minted Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which is behind the get-tough move, also arrested another 12 grassroots leaders in Pahang for allegedly giving RM300 to RM500 to several delegates who will attend Umno's national assembly in March.

The 2,500 delegates are greatly courted as they hold the sole right to vote in the party elections. The polls are seeing an intense fight for top positions, and accusations of vote buying have surfaced.

News reports said the 12 leaders allegedly gave out money on the instruction of a well-known politician who is in his 30s.

The politician was not named, but is reportedly vying for a seat on the Umno Supreme Council, and was a political secretary to a top minister.

The politician was questioned for several hours at the Pahang MACC office yesterday over his alleged role.

Deputy Premier Najib Razak yesterday said the ongoing arrests and prosecutions were testimony that no one could escape from the law.

The crackdown comes as Umno strives to clean up its house. The party has been slammed for top-to-bottom corruption since internal elections were held from June to November last year.

The lower-level polls were held to pick divisional leaders and delegates to the national assembly. The last stage of the elections to pick top-level leaders will be held in March at the assembly.

Veteran leaders like former premier Mahathir Mohamad had warned that Barisan Nasional could lose the next general election if it did not address the internal corruption.

News reports said the MACC is investigating 93 cases of 'money politics', Umno's name for vote buying.

The MACC was set up through legislation passed by Parliament last month despite objections from both Umno and opposition MPs.

While the opposition felt that it lacked teeth, some Umno leaders feared there would be an excessive focus on the party.

Johor Umno MP Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the MACC intervention was testament to Umno's inability to solve its own problems. 'Previously, the Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC's predecessor) focused on corruption in government, public funds and projects. Now, it's extended into everything, how is the MACC going to focus?' he asked.

He said he did not believe that this would help to improve Umno's image.

No comments: