I know that for some time now, during election season, we have heard stories about residents being transported to PAP rallies and being given food and drinks.  There was even one youtube video (originating from the 2011 general elections) that appears to contain a “testimony” by a rally goer that she was asked to come to the rally and that food would be given to those that came. 

When the Hougang by-election campaign was going on, I blogged about whether something similar had taken place at the rallies.  Let me be clear on this.  My question is meant for both the PAP and the WP. http://article14.blogspot.sg/2012/05/any-food-drinks-or-vouchers-at-by.html

In my conversations with friends, and arising out of some comments that I have read online, it appears that many people consider ‘treating’ rally goers or voters as being underhanded and sometimes comically desperate.  Many people appear not to be aware of the fact that treating a person by providing food or drinks for the purpose of influencing that person’s vote or inducing him to attend a rally is in fact an offence under s.58 of the Parliamentary Elections Act:

58. —(1) A person shall be guilty of treating if he corruptly, by himself or by any other person, either before, during or after an election, directly or indirectly gives or provides, or pays wholly or in part the expense of giving, any meat, drink, refreshment, cigarette, entertainment or other provision or thing or any money or ticket or other means or device to enable the procuring of any such meat, drink, refreshment, cigarette, entertainment or other provision or thing, to or for any person —

(a) for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting;

(b) for the purpose of inducing that person to attend or remain at any election meeting;

(c) on account of any such person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting or being about to vote or refrain from voting at the election; or

(d) on account of any such person having attended an election meeting.

As required under the law, Desmond Choo and Png Eng Huat have filed their respective Returns on election expenses.  On 2nd July 2012, the Returning Officer issued a notice under s.75 of the Parlimentary Elections Act stating that the Returns are available for inspection. http://www.eld.gov.sg/gazette/G_ParE2012/2012-07-02%20Notice%20under%20section%2075.pdf

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have been too concerned or curious about the expenses.  But, my eyebrows were raised when I read a ChannelNewsAsia article: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1210457/1/.html

There’s a line in there that states: “Mr Choo said the main expenses incurred were for the rallies and meals.”

Meals?  I hope that those were meals eaten by Mr Choo and his party workers that worked on the by-election campaign.  If these meal expenses went towards feeding rally goers, s.58 of the Parliamentary Elections Act could be triggered.  The Returns are available for inspection at the  Elections department for a 6 month period.  I might just pop down to take a look at the expenses if I can get away from work commitments.  (or some other blogger/reporter from TOC or TRE might do it. 🙂  It would be interesting to see what sum of money was involved in relation to meals.  Similarly, it would be interesting to see if Png Eng Huat had expended such sums. 

Incidentally, for those that might be crying foul instantly and calling for the prosecution of Desmond Choo, take note of the fact that there is sufficient wriggle room in s.58 to argue that no offence was committed.  These phrases could afford some room for the benefit of doubt to be given:  “for the purpose of corruptly influencing”, “for the purpose of inducing”.  An individual could argue innocence on account of having provided the food or drink independant of the purposes in s.58(1)(a) or s.58(1)(b). 

Well, let us see what the explanation would be.