Election watchdog Bersih 2.0 and lawyers have hit out at Telekom Malaysia over a directive by the company barring its staff from acting as polling and counting agents on polling day, May 9.
They urged Telekom Malaysia to retract the directive, issued on April 11 to all staff, including those in its subsidiaries.
Telekom Malaysia had said in its directive that “employees are prohibited from acting as election agents in polling centres or acting in any way for candidates contesting in either the Dewan Rakyat or the Dewan Undangan Negeri”.
In a statement to FMT this evening, the company said: “As a corporate entity we have to be neutral when it comes to politics. We have never restricted any employee’s involvement in political activity outside of working hours, in their personal capacity, as long as it does not breach TM’s core values and code of ethics.”
Perak DAP’s M Kulasegaran, a lawyer, told FMT that the directive against taking part as polling and counting agents was against the spirit and intentions of the general election.
“In fact, they should be encouraging people to participate in the democratic process,” he said. “If it is true, people should punish the company by disconnecting their services with TM.”
He hoped other companies would not follow suit. “I hope it is not the tip of the iceberg with other companies soon telling its staff the same.”
Another DAP lawyer, Ramkarpal Singh of Penang, said it was wrong for Telekom Malaysia to issue such a directive unless it was already stated in the employment contract. “Otherwise, legally there can be no restrictions on a TM staff becoming a Paca,” he told FMT.
TM confirmed in a statement issued to FMT that all staff had been sent a directive about the election campaign.
The directive bars employees from wearing clothes bearing the Telekom Malaysia logo when they attend political ceramah, distribute election material from any political party, make statements supporting any political party and encouraging others to vote for particular candidates.
Political party logos may not be exhibited on any private cars or items of clothing within the Telekom Malaysia premises.
“Staff are not allowed to display the TM brand or name in any way while being involved in activity related to their political affiliation. For example, they are not to wear anything with the TM logo or the logo of any company under the TM group, while carrying out such activity.”
Bersih 2.0 called out Telekom Malaysia for not recognising the rights of Malaysians.
“No one should be barred from taking part in the election process, such as polling and counting agents, as long as they are doing it outside of their working hours or on their off day. This is the right of an individual as a citizen and there are no laws in Malaysia prohibiting the citizens from doing so,” Bersih said in a statement.