Attorney-General Tommy Thomas has confirmed that the provision under the Election Offences Act 1954 does not expressly refer to walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning, and thus permits for those activities are not required.
"Clarification is required on the controversy surrounding the requirement for police permits for walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning by the six candidates and their parties for the Tanjung Piai by-election scheduled for this Nov 16," he said in a statement today.
Thomas (above) said it must be kept in mind that voting is a fundamental right expressly enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
"Since 1955, 14 general elections and hundreds of by-elections have been held for our electorate to vote on their members of parliament and state assemblypersons.
"Campaigning for these elections represent the heart of parliamentary democracy," he said.
Thomas said the declaration by the police for the need for such police permits is based on Section 24B(3) of the Election Offences Act 1954.
"With respect, this provision does not expressly refer to walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning.
"The words used in the provision cannot, under any circumstances, be interpreted to extend to walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning," said Thomas.
He said it was a historical fact that since 1955, these methods of appealing to the electorate are the ones most popularly used by candidates of all political parties, and without the need for such permits.
The issue has been the source of much debate and confusion in the last few days with Election Commission (EC) chairperson Azhar Azizan Harun saying on Tuesday that the police required all parties and candidates contesting in Tanjung Piai to have a permit for house-to-house campaigning and walkabout programmes.
This elicited a response from opposition leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob who wanted an urgent motion in Parliament to debate what he called a "new rule".
This, in turn, was dismissed by Azhar, who said there was no basis for Ismail's complaint and that the allegations were "lacking in merit" and "reflective of the siege mentality suffered by some politicians who are out to gain sympathy."
The issue was also a subject of contention in Parliament today as Tanjong Karang MP Noh Omar attempted to introduce a motion to debate the issue, but was prevented from doing so.
Meanwhile, de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong also told the Dewan Rakyat today that the police had repeatedly explained the new rules to all contesting parties since nomination day on Nov 2.