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Join DAP’s “Register To Be The Boss” campaign - voters have until 30.6.2007 to register to be qualified to vote in the any general elections called this year
by Lim Guan Eng
(Melaka, Wednesday): Voters have until June 30 2007 to register as voters if they want to be qualified to vote in any general elections called this year. Even though Election Commission (EC) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman has said that voters have to register by August 2007 if they want to vote in general elections, this was in the expectations of general elections next year and not this year.
To be listed in the principal and supplementary electoral roll under ELECTIONS (REGISTRATION OF ELECTORS) REGULATIONS 2002 would take a period of at least 3 months. Voters are processed on a quarterly basis with the first quarter ending on 31 March and the second quarter ending on 30 June. In other words if general elections are expected to be held in November this year, voters would need to register by the second quarter, that is before 30 June to qualify to vote.
For this reason I have directed all DAP state committees to intensify their voter registration campaign with weekly updates of new voters registered before 30 June 2007. All voters are also advised to check whether their names are still on the list following the manipulations in the Kota Melaka parliamentary electoral roll that saw a surprising reduction of voters 521 voters from 82,260 as at 2006 to 82,781 in the 2004 general elections. Only the state seats held by the DAP in the Kota Melaka parliamentary seat saw a reduction of voters with Kota Laksamana losing 298 voters and Bandar Hilir losing 900 voters whereas seats held by BN saw an increase in number of voters.
For this reason to ensure a clean, free, fair and impartial elections, the EC must carry out 10 areas of electoral reforms:-
1. Use of indelible ink & oversight of postal votes
There should be use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting and oversight of postal votes by coutning agents of all candidates 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 2002 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. Longer campaign period of 5 weeks with democratic practices
DAP urges a mandatory campaign period of 5 weeks, as compared to the insignificant 8 days in the last elections. At the same time democratic practices should be observed during the election period observing basic freedoms of expression and of assembly as well as public financing to eliminate corrupt practices and funding by vested interests.
7. 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.
8. 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. For instance Putrajaya Parliamentary seat had only 5,079 voters in the 2004 general elections as compared to Seputih with 74,702 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:
Automatic registration as voter through a NRD-EC collaboration to ensure that no one is left behind in election, as currently there are more than 5 million voting age Malaysians not registered as voters.
It has been discovered that some people who deceased long ago were assigned the 12-digit Identity Card Number, which can potentially results in election fraud.
Voters whose names disappeared in the electoral roll despite repeatedly voting in previous general elections:-
1) Tan Ah Kong @ Choo Tin Chee – 431211105043 (8024903)
2) Chin Siew Fai - 710122055357 (A11791544)
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, Secretary-General of DAP