(Petaling Jaya, Monday): When announcing July 10 and July 18 as the nomination and
polling dates for the Pendang parliamentary and Anak Bukit state assembly
by-elections in Kedah on Saturday, the Election Commission Chairman Datuk Abdul
Rashid Abdul Rahman made a special plea to the media calling for “fair
coverage for all parties which are contesting”, stressing that the success of
the by-elections depends on the co-operation of all parties.
The Election Commission should not be making pious pleas
about fair media coverage in the two by-elections when going by the record of
past media coverage, particularly the electronic media of radio and television,
the Pendang and Anak Bukit by-elections should see some of the worst excesses of
media exploitation in the history of elections in the country.
The question is what the Election Commission doing about such media
excesses and abuses.
No other person in the country has had a longer history and more experience than Rashid
in handling elections in Malaysia, as before being appointed Election
Commission Chairman he had previously served as the Secretary of the Election
Commission for more than two decades and been involved in three Parliamentary
general elections and 12 state general elections in the Peninsular, Sabah and
There will be very few Malaysians who could
match Rashid’s understanding that
the biggest blots of the Malaysian election system preventing it from being
able to hold its head high internationally as a free, fair and clean
election system are the “3M” abuses –
money, media and government machinery.
The Election Commission is entrusted by the Malaysian
Constitution to “conduct elections”
to Parliament and the State Assemblies, which can only mean free, fair and clean
elections. It is a serious
dereliction of duty of the Election
Commission that it had failed to
take effective measures for more than four
decades to ensure that elections in Malaysia
are free, fair and clean and liberated from the 3M abuses.
It is no use the Election Commission Chairman making a statement expressing the pious hope that the media would give fair coverage, when the Election Commission should be taking pro-active measures to create the environment for fair media coverage during elections.
For a start, the Election Commission should set up a
special task force to monitor the “media coverage” for all contesting
parties in the Pendang and Anak
Bukit by-elections, in particular radio and television coverage,
issuing a daily report on
whether there had been “fair media coverage” in the two by-elections and
making legislative proposals after the by-elections to ensure “fair media
coverage” in elections.
The Election Offences Amendment Bill 2002 had been
withdrawn from second and third reading in the recent parliamentary meeting and
deferred to the September Parliament.
Media abuses and exploitations in the two by-elections should be used as object lessons to introduce amendments to the Election Offences Amendment Bill 2002 to regulate and control unfair media coverage in the battle against one of the 3M “black-eyes” of the Malaysian election system.