Is it fair to spend RM1.6 million in public funds for a political game?

This seems to be the question on most people’s minds after the Election Commission (EC) announced the date and the cost of the Kajang state by-election on Wednesday.

The question arises whether public funds should be used for a by-election which many see as a political game of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) after the party’s assemblyman Lee Chin Cheh vacated the seat on Jan 27 to pave the way for PKR adviser and Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to contest the by-election and become a Selangor assemblyman.

According to political analyst Prof Datuk Dr Zainal Kling, public funds should be used wisely to help the people, but unfortunately RM1.6 million has to be spent on the political show orchestrated by Anwar in Selangor.

That money could be added to the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) fund which provides RM650 each to more than 2,400 families or RM300 each to more than 5,300 unmarried individuals in the country.

The RM1.6 million could also be used to make available more than 50 free houses, which cost RM30,000 each, under the people’s housing programme for the lower-income group, or 16 free houses, which cost RM100,000 each, under the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Programme.

“It is obvious that PKR is mocking the democratic process in Selangor, with the cost borne by public funds.

“In fact, it is not just democracy that is being made a mockery of, the people too are being manipulated,” said Zainal, who is also the current holder of the Tun Abdul Ghafar Baba Chair at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris.

He said that even if it was true that PKR had internal problems in Selangor, Anwar and the other PKR leaders should settle it at the conference table without forcing a by-election that drained public funds.

Yesterday, EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof said the Kajang by-election would involve 673 election workers. The constituency has 39,278 registered voters. Nomination has been set for March 11.

According to Aziz, many factors influenced the cost of a by-election, including the number of voters, size and location of constituency, and the number of EC workers.

He had also emphasised that the EC would try its best to keep the cost of the by-election to the minimum.

On claims by opposition supporters in the social media that the RM1.6 million for the by-election was too high, Zainal said there would be no such expense if there had been no political game by PKR.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government, which at one time was constantly criticised for allegedly being spendthrift in ruling the country, was now clearly implementing cost-cutting measures aimed at helping the people manage the cost of living.

“However, ironically, it is now the opposition, which previously accused the government of wasting the people’s money, which is doing it for its political game in the Kajang by-election … a game which the people are clearly uncomfortable with,” Zainal said.

He said the people should be wise in evaluating the truth behind Anwar’s political game and reject the individual constantly creating a show to pull the wool over the people’s eyes.

Interestingly, Anwar was reported to have admitted that the cost of holding the Kajang by-election was a drain on public funds and had instructed that posters from the last general election be used in the campaign.

Former Pas Youth chief Nasarudin Hassan described Lee’s resignation as invalid and Anwar’s nomination as a gamble with public funds.

Whatever Anwar’s intentions are — solving the dispute between PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim or Anwar making himself the Menteri Besar — the Kajang by-election is not the first time that the PKR adviser is wasting public funds for his political gain.

In 2008, RM1.5 million in public funds was spent to hold a by-election for the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat when Anwar’s wife, Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, resigned to make way for him to contest and become the MP.

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