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1 June 2007
Yg Bhgia Tan Sri Hj. Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman,
SURUHANJAYA PILIHANRAYA (SPR),
Aras 4 & 5, Blok C7, Kompleks C,
Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan
62690 PUTRAJAYA. BY HAND
Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri,
This DAP delegation, comprising Members of Parliament and key national leaders, urges Yang Berbahagia to push for major reforms to the electoral system before his pending retirement at the end of this year. The time has come for Tan Sri Rashid to leave behind his legacy of removing electoral roll irregularities, enforcing the Elections Offences Act 1954 and using indelible ink towards establishing a clean, free, fair and impartial elections.
Tan Sri Rashid served as the Secretary of Election Commission (EC) between 1979 and 1995. He returned to Election Commission as its Chairman since 2001. Tan Sri Rashid remarked in January this year that an overhaul of the election laws were needed to ensure the electoral process be transparent and fair to all political parties. Tan Sri Rashid also opined that the Election Commission should be allowed to be independent and be given more powers.
DAP shares Tan Sri Rashid’s concerns particularly electoral reforms in the following 10 areas.
1. Use of Indelible ink & oversight of postal votes
There should be use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting and ovesight of postal votes to prevent irregularities and abuses.
2. Dirty electoral rolls no longer acceptable
The credibility and integrity of the election roll is the most crucial factor in ensuring a free, fair, impartial and clean election. In 2001, Justice Datuk Muhammad Kamil Awang nullified the election result of Likas, Sabah on the grounds that the 1998 electoral roll for the state seat was illegal as phantom voters, including non-citizens, had cast their votes on polling day.
In his judgement, Justice Muhammad Kamil took the EC to task for its role in certifying and gazetting a questionable electoral roll, in spite of the numerous complaints made to the EC and the Government to carry out investigations into the existence of non-citizens in the electoral roll. He then went on to say that “it was unthinkable that the Election Commission should shut off the objections without inquiry” and “a constitutional wrong for SPR to have rejected the objections outright”.
According to the Election (Registration of Electors) Regulations (Sabah) 1971, if a voter files an official objection against the inclusion of a particular person, the EC has to hold a Public Inquiry to which both the objectors as well as the ‘objectee’ are invited. This failure to hold inquiry was sufficient to nullify the election result.
After the Likas judgment, the Government with the consent of the EC made an amendment to the Election Act 1958 gazetted on 30 May 2003 whereby Section 9A clearly states that the electoral roll, once certified or recertified and published in the Gazette, shall be “deemed to be final and binding” and not “be questioned or appealed against in, or reviewed, quashed or set aside by, any court.”
In other words even if the electoral rolls are so flawed as to influence the election result, the election result would still stand. This amendment has effectively removed all legal avenues to challenge the credibility of the electoral roll.
3. Abolishing Section 9A of the 1958 Elections Act
DAP urges the Election Commission to propose to the Government to restore the rights of the citizens to challenge any fraudulent electoral roll as sufficient to nullify an election by abolishing Section 9A to Election Act 1958. In the meantime, the onus is on the Election Commission to ensure the credibility of the roll by cleaning up the roll.
In the last General Election, there were at least three versions of the Electoral Rolls being circulated and the deletion of many valid voters from the roll in Selangor. There should be no repeat of such incidents.
DAP also urges the Election Commission to waive the hefty cost of purchasing electronic version of the Election Roll. The Electoral Roll should be seen as public information accessible to all in the most convenient form.
4. Voter registration
DAP has been at the forefront in ensuring the achievement of EC’s target to register more voting age Malaysians as voters by assisting EC to conduct voter registration. However, DAP members faced with many artificial barriers and obstacles put in place by state EC offices.
For instance, the Selangor EC refused to conduct two such exercises, citing reasons like uncomfortable with the idea of conducting registration in markets and restaurants with many Chinese patrons, as well as stating that the Selangor EC officials would not conduct registration in outdoor atmosphere without air-conditioning. The Federal Territory EC also refused to conduct registration exercise within the compound of a church. These actions border on religious and racial discrimination and are unconstitutional in denying voters the right to register and vote.
In a letter dated March 2007 by EC Assistant Secretary of Operations Encik Abdul Hamid bin Ali to voters in the Kota Laksamana state constituency in Melaka were required to respond as to whether they were still staying in the constituency. Of all the 28 state constituencies in Melaka, only voters in Kota Laksamana were required to respond. Why were other state constituencies exempted? Whether by coincidence of design, Kota Laksamana state constituency is held by DAP leading to suspicions that this is directed to dilute opposition support and enhance BN’s chances of winning the seat both in Kota Laksamana and the Kota Melaka Parliamentary constituency.
5. Election offences
The EC must assert its power in order to preserve the legitimacy of Malaysian democracy. It should not allow itself to be a ‘toothless tiger’ by ignoring Barisan Nasional’s election illegal and excessive expenditure, as well as the blatant misuse of government machinery. The EC can never be independent as long as elections laws are not enforced against BN candidates spending RM 110 million far exceeding the spending limit of RM 88.3 million in the 2004 general elections.
By failing to act, the EC is also guilty of abetting electoral fraud or corrupt practices during elections. Under section 19 of the Election Offences Act 1954, a candidate for every Parliamentary and state constituency can not spend more than RM 200,000 and RM 100,000 respectively. This means that a political party like BN, that contests all the 219 Parliamentary and 445 state constituencies on offer in the 2004 general elections, can not exceed spending RM 88.3 million.
6. Free and fair media reporting on election
As the body that conducts the election, it is EC’s responsibility to ensure provides both sides of the political divide enjoys equal access to media, especially government-owned electronic media, to enable to voter to make an informed decision.
7. Police and ceramah
The EC should ensure that the Police acts impartially in any election. In particular, ceramahs held by all parties before and during should be treated liberally.
9. Respecting the principle of one-man, one-vote.
The basic essence of democracy should be respected by observing the principle of one-man, one-vote to prevent gerrymandering where opposition constituencies have proportionately more voters. The 1957 Merdeka Constitutional provision prohibiting gerrymandering by limiting the variance of voters between constituencies to 15% should be restored.
10. The National Registration Department
In relation to National Registration Department’s role in elections:
It is essential that these 10 reforms be made to ensure that the entire electoral process not be riddled with flaws and fraud in keeping with the spirit and principles of democracy where the people are the “bosses” in deciding who would form the government.
Lim Guan Eng
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP