DAP to convene an all-party/NGOs  meeting on Wednesday   inviting Election Commission and Suhakam on the need for  a Code of Ethics for Election Commission to carry out its constitutional duties to  maintain public confidence to conduct free, fair and clean elections

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangFriday): I had said in my media statement on Tuesday, 16th September 2003, that I would today begin a three-part response to the wide-ranging interview of the Election Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman  with Malaysiakini over three days from Sept. 10 to 12, 2003 where he also  challenged me to take the Barisan Nasional government to court for its abuses of government machineries, resources and power as a caretaker government during the election campaign between the dissolution of Parliament and polling day.  

This media  conference was called for me to begin my three-part response to Rashid’s astonishing interview, where he made numerous controversial statements, including several weak and faulty  assertions, about elections and the Election Commission’s work, which cannot be allowed to go unchallenged and  unrebutted 

In the last few days, however, many events have intervened raising issues about the Election Commission and the conduct of free, fair and clean elections which merit immediate and greater priority attention, like the controversy over the Election Commission’s collusion with  Puteri UMNO in employing its members as part-time workers and PAS’ petition to the Conference of Malay Rulers for the removal of the Election Commission Chairman and Secretary; the controversy over Rashid’s announcement of the lifting of the 25-year police ban on public rallies in the next general election, with the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim denying that the government or the police had agreed to it; and the Election Commission’s proposed code of ethics to ensure free, fair and clean elections.  

Rashid continued with the  unhealthy and undesirable practice which he introduced after he became Election Commission Chairman of holding separate  meetings  with the Barisan Nasional parties and the Opposition on the proposed code of ethics on Tuesday and Wednesday, when for over four decades, the Election Commission had always  met all political parties, ruling and opposition, at one and the same meeting to maintain its professional,  independent  and non-partisan character.   

Holding separate meetings  instead of one common meeting with ruling and opposition parties is a grave  step backwards not only for the independence, integrity and professionalism of the Election Commission, but also for the nation-building process and Vision 2020 objective of creating greater unity and consensus among Malaysians.   I therefore welcome the support by the UMNO Youth leader and Minister for Youth and Sports, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that the Election Commission should be meeting all political parties in one go instead of having separate meetings with ruling and opposition parties.

There are now three pressing matters which must take priority to my response to Rashid’s Malaysiakini interview. 

Firstly, on the Election Commission-Puteri UMNO collusion.  Puteri UMNO chief  Datuk Azalina Othman Said is demanding for the head of the “culprit” who leaked out the correspondence from the Election Commission  to employ Puteri UMNO members as part-time workers, declaring: “It is an offence under the Official Secrets Act to copy or distribute any official government document. We want the culprit to be brought to justice”. (NST) 

The “culprit” had actually performed the nation and the Election Commission a great public service as a “whistleblower” to expose and stop the  collusion between the Election Commission and Puteri UMNO which would have irreparably destroyed all public confidence in the professionalism, independence and integrity of the Election Commission and should be praised and rewarded instead of being persecuted and prosecuted under the OSA. 

Utusan Malaysia reports that police have started investigations into the police report lodged by the  Election Commission Secretary, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar under the OSA on leaks of Election Commission letters on the issue. The Election Commission should not have lodged such a police report.  

DAP calls on the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to take a policy decision to place public interests above technicalities, and to be fully mindful of the progressive world trend to actively encourage “whistleblowers” whether in public or private service to expose all forms of abuses of power, including corruption, and not to initiate any prosecution under the OSA for the “whistleblowing” which exposed and stopped the collusion between the Election Commission and Puteri UMNO. 

On the second issue of the 25-year ban on public rallies,  Malaysians must be completely confounded as to whether public rallies for the next general election  are allowed or not, with the cascade of conflicting statements.  Although Rashid claims that  that he was not determining the law but merely reading the law under the Election Offences Act, the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister,  Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi appeared to have  overruled  the Election Commission Chairman’s interpretation when he said on his return from his China trip that  it is the police and not the Election Commission which will decide on the issue of public rallies in the next general election. 

Is Rashid prepared to go to court for a declaration to vindicate his interpretation of the Election Offences Act that public rallies should be allowed in the next general election, and  that the Election Commission has powers to “make sure that the police issue permits for open rallies to all political parties”, or the police will be “obstructing a party’s rights and freedom to conduct political activities within the election period. The police would be breaching the ethics code of a free election if they did this.”  (New Straits Times 18.9.03).  

Barisan Nasional Ministers and leaders who oppose the lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies are not prompted by security concerns but purely by undemocratic inclinations, for they want to perpetuate the present  unfair and undemocratic system where public rallies are banned for the Opposition while  Barisan Nasional parties can hold them unhindered under different guises – like this full-page advertisement in the New Straits Times on Wednesday, 17.9.03  with the Barisan Nasional “dacing” logo, inviting the public to an illegal public rally tomorrow under the guise of the “50th anniversary celebration of successful  power sharing”, as follows: 

“’Power-Sharing Success of Malaysia’
2.00 pm 20th September 2003 Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur
All Are Invited” 

The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai should convene  an all-party meeting on the lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies as there are no good security reasons for the continuation of the ban while the police should demonstrate its commitment to the  Rukunegara objective to maintain  a democratic way of life. 

The third matter is on the Election Commission’s proposed code of ethics to ensure free, fair and clean elections.

A fatal flaw of the Election Commission’s code of ethics meant to ensure ethical electoral  conduct of political parties, candidates, election agents and workers is the glaring  omission to cover the ethical conduct of a key player – the Election Commission itself, to ensure that it functions with independence, professionalism, accountability and integrity above all suspicion of prejudice and bias against Opposition parties. 

This “black hole” in the Commission’s proposed code of ethics cannot be allowed to remain unfilled.  For this reason, DAP will  convene an all-party/NGOs  meeting on Wednesday and we will also   invite the  Election Commission Chairman and the  Suhakam  Chairman to discuss the important topic on the need for  a code of ethics embracing the  Election Commission to ensure that it could  carry out its constitutional duties to  maintain public confidence to conduct free, fair and clean elections.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman