Keng Yaik's call for a clean electoral rolls cleared of phantom voters the political joke of the year when Gerakan was the mastermind of phantom voters particularly in Penang parliamentary and state constituencies

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The proposal by the Gerakan President, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik that the next general election should only be called after the Election Commission has cleaned up the electoral rolls qualifies to be the political joke of the year when Gerakan was the mastermind of phantom voters particularly in the Penang parliamentary and state constituencies.

It reminds Malaysians of Keng Yaik's fierce statement in August last year declaring that it was educationally unsound to use English to teach Mathematics and Science in the first year of primary education for all national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools although he has now become its most fervent advocate and defender!

The menace of phantom voters had been in existence for the past two to three decades. Why didn't Keng Yaik raise his voice to call for a clean-up of the electoral roll before?

A week before polling day in the last general election in November 1999, I had pointed out that there were thousands of phantom voters in Bukit Bendera parliamentary constituency, referring in particular to over 279 phantom voters registered in eight Rifle Range flats - when it was impossible to have 30 to 40 voters in one flat! Is Keng Yaik now seriously committed to a clean-up of all phantom voters in Bukit Bendera and all the other Penang parliamentary and state constituencies planted by the Gerakan?

It was only after the 1999 general election that the Barisan Nasional parties, particularly UMNO, became concerned about phantom voters, with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad bandying the figure of 2.8 million phantom voters which can only be an underestimate as UMNO leaders were only interested about Malay voters, and not similar abuses affecting non-Malay constituencies.

We do not want the Barisan Nasional demand for a clean-up of the phantom voters to end up as an one-sided and selective process, eliminating what the UMNO and Barisan Nasional regard as phantom voters unfavourable to them but retaining the pro-Barisan Nasional phantom voters.

In the era of information technology, there is simply no reason why the Election Commission, with the co-operation of all political parties, civic groups and concerned NGOs, cannot clean up the electoral roll to ensure that it is phantom-voter free for the next general election.

Election Commission Chairman Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the earlier proposal to introduce automatic voter registration for those who turn 21 could only be done if the individual's address in his identity card was updated each time he moved.

He said: "If the law requiring citizens to change their addresses within 90 days after they have moved is enforced, we can then think of introducing such a system. Otherwise, we will be registering people as constituents of an area when they no longer resided there."

This is not a good enough excuse not to introduce the automatic voter registration system - as a system which registers a voter under a former residential address is definitely superior and more legitimate than a system which excludes the voter, denying his constitutional right to vote, or one where a phantom voter is allowed to get onto the electoral register with neither residential or work link with the constituency he or she is registered.

The need for an automatic voter registration system is even more compelling considering the failure of the round-the-year voters' registration system introduced by the Election Commission six months ago, which has only managed to register 120,000 out of 1.6 million eligible voters - or a miserable 7.5%!

The Election Commission should launch a two-prong strategy to have a clean, credible and complete electoral roll to uphold the constitutional right to vote of every Malaysian:

  • An automatic voters' registration system for every Malaysian who turns 21 - which must be regarded as the most elementary duty of the Election Commission especially in the era of information technology; and

  • Establishment of an all-party phantom voters-busting advisory panel to assist the Election Commission to identify and clean up the electoral roll of phantom voters - without fear or favour and regardless of political affiliation, inclination or origin of the phantom voter.

It is mystifying as to why the Election Commission is asking for powers that political parties should be registered with the commission.

Rashid's argument that this is important because some candidates do not comply with the election etiquette despite being told of the do's and don'ts during the period is not convincing, as nobody believes that the Election Commission would have the independence and impartiality to act against the parties of the ruling coalition which are mostly responsible for breaches of rules and ethics inimical to the conduct of a free, fair and clean election.

Last week, in the Israeli general election campaign, the Israeli Central Election Committee head, Judge Mishael Cheshin, cut off the live television broadcast of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, on the ground that he was engaged in "political propaganda" in attacking his Opposition.

Could anyone imagine that there would be such a fair, independent and courageous official in Malaysia, who would brook no nonsense or any violation with the elementary notions of fair play and justice in political party politicking, and who would not hesitate to pull the plug of a live telecast by the Prime Minister for gross abuse of public resources?

Or let us have a simple test: Is Rashid prepared to tell the Deputy Information Minister, Datuk Zainuddin Maidin that he has gone overboard in his abuse and misuse of radio and television against the Opposition parties? If political parties have to be registered with the Election Commission, is Rashid prepared to interdict Zainuddin for such malpractices?


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman