If votes are secret, how can minister threaten teachers, lawyers say

Bede Hong

EDUCATION Minister Mahdzir Khalid’s warning to teachers and ministry officers not to support the opposition was illegal, say lawyers.

It also begs the question if Putrajaya has ways to check who civil servants voted for, which violates the principle that a person’s vote is secret, they said.

Chinese-daily Kwong Wah reported Mahdzir as saying that disciplinary action would be taken if civil servants backed the opposition.

Lawyers said the statement was not only unethical, it violated several laws concerning what statements cabinet members could make regarding voters’ choices.

Former Selangor Bar committee legal aid co-chairman KA Ramu said votes by public servants should remain a “secret affair”.

“Are there any rules that say you cannot support the opposition or the ruling government? Any circular? No. At the end of the day, it’s between the teachers and the ballot box. It’s a secret affair.

“The rakyat pays their (teachers) salary. Who are they (government) to say they cannot support the opposition? The opposition are also Malaysians. Are they saying that they’re frightened of losing power?

“What they’re doing is very unethical. It’s not right. Basically you’re threatening them. They want to make the teachers subservient to the ruling government and that is wrong,” he said.

Another lawyer, Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, said the federal constitution protects the right of every Malaysian citizen who has been registered as a voter to “vote their own choice who gets to be in the government.”

“It doesn’t matter if the voter is a public servant or not. The only limitation on the public servant is the person cannot bring politics to work. He can be involved in political activities or political parties but it must stay out of his work time. That is all,” said the lawyer of Pakatan Harapan chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“If a person’s vote is supposed to be a secret, and the government minister makes this sort of remark, it gives the impression that the government has a way to find out who the voters vote for. Then you can’t blame the public if they think the government has access to the voters’ list.

“You are admitting that you have one way or another, wrongly and by crooked means, to get the information on the voters’ list. That is completely wrong. And that would create the assumption that the government is using the help of the Election Commission.

“The commission must now also answer to this issue raised by Mahdzir. Are they assisting the government in informing who the voters vote for?”

Haniff said it was wrong for a minister to come up with threats of intimidation when the election is just around the corner. The 14th general election must be held by August after the automatic dissolution of Parliament on June 24.

Haniff said Mahdzir’s statement could be considered criminal intimidation under Section 506 of the Penal Code. It could also be an offence under the Election Offences Act 1954, which protects the rights of voters and the maintenance of secrecy at elections, he added. – January 19, 2018.

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  • Actually Mahadzir is not the first minister to imply votes are not secret. Could it be possible its not?

    Posted 6 years ago by Bigjoe Lam · Reply

    • Anyone remember Baginda? He is paid a lot of money to write statistics and likely find out who voted for who.

      Posted 6 years ago by Justin Lee · Reply

  • So it is now confirmed that this government has access to ballot boxes and who voted for whom. Worse yet, this minister threaten public servants. What is the police and EC doing about this?

    Posted 6 years ago by HC Lung · Reply

  • Power crazy!

    Posted 6 years ago by Anak Malaysia · Reply

  • Yes, EC should immediately probe Education Minister Mahdzir for an offence under Section 9 (Undue influence) of the Election Offences Act 1954, for making threats to civil servants, including teachers, that they can only support the ruling coalition, but not the opposition, and warned of serious consequences if they support the latter.
    The said Section 9 states, among others, “Every person who directly or indirectly interferes or attempts to interfere with the free exercise by any person of any electoral right shall be guilty of the offence of undue influence.”
    Mahdzir’s such threats were reported not only in Kwong Wah Daily, but also in Sin Chew Daily dated Jan 19 (the largest circulation paper in the country), where he was quoted while giving a briefing on education policies on Jan 18. No retraction of Mahdzir’s such utterances have been reported in these papers.
    Under the circumstances, the EC is duty bound to enforce the election law on the Education Minister. Such law enforcement would also lend credibility to its oft-repeated claims that it is an independent and impartial body to conduct free and fair elections, free of political influences.

    Posted 6 years ago by Kim quek · Reply

  • 500,000 votes are at stake! That is the approximate number of teachers. So by threats, intimidation, or even blackmail, the BN is trying to bag as many of those votes as possible. The minister is trying to secure his own job by threatening the teachers with the loss of their jobs if they "bite the hand that feeds them". Hello minister, the same hands that feed you also feed the teachers, i.e. those of the taxpayers. Teachers are not paid with UMNO's or BN's money, and neither are you.

    Posted 6 years ago by Ravinder Singh · Reply