Najib’s Illusory Transformation (II): PSC Report on Electoral Reform – A Facile and Selective Solution

Najib’s Illusory Transformation (II):

PSC Report on Electoral Reform – A Facile and Selective Solution

By William Leong Jee Keen, Member of Parliament, Selayang

In collaboration with

Political Studies for Change (KPRU – Kajian Politik untuk Perubahan), a local research institute as well as a political think tank.

 

22 recommendations zoomed in by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that tabled in Parliament on 3rd April 2012 had triggered uproar. The Pakatan Rakyat representatives expressed their disappointments and dissatisfactions over the PSC’s final report as it failed to address the fundamental concerns on the election system, as well as the outstanding issues raised by electoral reform pressure group, BERSIH, in which the most pertinent being the lack of measures to clean up the electoral roll.[1]

 

22 recommendations by PSC tabled and passed without debate

Chaired by Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maximus Ongkili, together with the nine-member panel – five from Barisan Nasional (BN), three from the Opposition and one Independent MP (Member of Parliament), the PSC had taken almost six months of deliberating on various contentions affecting the election process and eventually readied to table the 22 recommendations. The PSC’s 22 recommendations comprised of five main sections, namely legislation and regulatory amendments, improve the election process, improve the quality of the electoral roll, strengthen the position of the Election Commission (EC), and constituency boundaries, political financing and alternative system. The nine-member panel had agreed upon 18 out of 22 issues raised by MPs from both sides of the divide. The 18 unanimously agreed upon recommendations were[2]:

Allowing Malaysian residing overseas to vote via the Malaysian High Commissions in the country or through postal voting;

Provide necessary facilities for voters to vote outside of their constituency;

Parliament to be dissolved only after its fourth year in session;

Establishment of caretaker government to run the country until the formation of a new government;

Stricter enforcement of existing laws regarding those who provide false information when registering as a voter;

All campaigning parties contesting in elections to get fair and equal access to the media;

Continuous cleaning of the electoral roll;

Monitor and probe addresses that have many voters registered to it;

Allow objections to the electoral roll made via political parties, NGO and others;

The use of an alternative address apart from the one stated in MyKad to determine the voter’s constituency;

Empowering the EC;

Restructure and strengthen the EC;

Widen the scope of the Election Academy;

Separation of powers for key functions vested upon the EC;

Balance the seats distribution in Sabah and Sarawak with the Peninsular;

A balanced re-delineation process to match the “one man-one vote system”;

Provide state funds to political parties based on the number of seats won in polls;

New election system– A study to replace the current ‘First Past the Post” election system;

 

Meanwhile, amongst the undecided issues, which passed on majority votes were stated as below[3]:

Allowing EC officials and media personnel to cast a postal vote.

Pre-registration process for Malaysian aged 20 as voter.

A minimum of 10 days campaigning period during election.

A study on automatic registration process for the future.

 

The much awaited PSC’s final report nevertheless, showed no intention in rectifying many of the irregularities in the electoral process despite many suggestions have already been put forward, primarily from the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections or BERSIH and Pakatan Rakyat. Even more daunting, there was no fixed timeline prescribed for all its 22 recommendations, implying that the polls process would be just as fraudulent in the coming 13th General Election. Thus, there is reason to believe that the PSC is merely a customary exercise to show the opportunistic willingness of Najib administration to concern of the people’s demand without any commitment made, hence very much a political show before the 13th General Election.

 

Minority Report to highlight core issues rejected

In the light of this, the Pakatan representatives – Mohamed Azmin Ali (MP for Gombak), Dr Mohd Hatta Md Ramli (MP for Kuala Krai) and Loke Siew Fook (MP for Rasah) had filed a motion under Standing Order 30(1) urging for the PSC report distributed to parliamentarians to be amended and simultaneously, a minority report[4] to be attached in order to elucidate the core objectives that the PSC was supposed to study and improve upon to ensure a clean and fair election.[5] The five recommendations in the minority report proposed for the Election Commission are as below[6]:

Admit that it is illegal to change voters’ constituencies, and return the 31,294 affected voters to their constituencies as of the last general election within 30 days of the PSC report being tabled in Parliament;

Clean up and remove 42,000 dubious voters from the electoral roll whose citizenship cannot be confirmed by the National Registration Department (NRD) within 15 days of the report being tabled;

Investigate the more than 1,000 voters older than 100 years (including one who is allegedly 159 years old) and clean the electoral roll of this within 30 days of the report being tabled;

Work together with the NRD to check on more than 15,000 instances where the gender of the voters conflicts with their MyKad numbers, where numbers ending with an even number is supposed to be for females whilst odd number for males, and clean the electoral roll within 30 days of the report being tabled; and

Change the status of some 45,000 spouses of police officers from postal voters to normal voters because they are not eligible to be postal voters, within 15 days of the report being tabled.

 

Unfortunately, the inclusion of the minority report, which was to include the dissenting views raised by the panel of three Pakatan Rakyat representatives had been denied by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia. According to the Speaker, it was merely a splintered opinion and there were no precedents in parliamentary practices in other Commonwealth nations of the inclusion of a minority report.[7]  Despite the cases of New Zealand and Jamaica had been pointed out by the opposition to counter Pandikar’s stance, yet the Speaker insisted on refusing their claims and altogether obliterated the diversity of views expressed within the PSC.

 

The PSC’s final report has not only been criticized by Pakatan Rakyat but also by Bar Council for purportedly failing to touch on specific issues pertaining to discrepancies in the current electoral roll. Bar Council President Lim Chee Wee described the report as incomplete and inadequate as “the measures recommended by the PSC in relation to the electoral roll do not engender faith and confidence in the integrity and veracity of the principal electoral roll”.[8] Crucially, the PSC had missed an ideal opportunity to deal with the EC, which allegedly shirk its responsibility and lack of commitment in implementing reforms.

 

BERSIH’s demands left unanswered

As we are now in the immediate prelude to the 13th General Election, the disclosure of many irregularities and discrepancies in the electoral roll which has yet to receive serious attention and practical rectification from the authority left no alternative for the BERSIH’s steering committee but to call for another round of peaceful demonstration on 28 April 2012 at Dataran Merdeka. Perhaps, Najib’s administration and the EC has not yet realized the growing magnitude of public concern over the need for electoral reform and once again underestimated BERSIH’s power to galvanize public support.

 

To date, EC has only implemented one of BERSIH 2.0’s 8 demands, which is by adopting indelible ink. PSC on the other hand accepted the appeal for free and fair media access. The demands to clean up electoral rolls, reform postal ballots and strengthen public institutions are partially addressed yet there is no guarantee that the coming election would be free from fraud. Last but not least, the demands to stop corruption and stop dirty politics are completely ignored as if they are not an issue at all.

 

The widely dissemination of the disclosure of election irregularities, particularly within the social networks of cyber sphere, has indeed generated a great deal of concern amongst the public. Data shown below are just a few significant instances to give a sketchy outline of the current confusion over the problematic electoral roll:

The unusual spike in voter numbers in certain constituencies, such as in Selangor wherein the number of registered voters has tremendously increased 22 per cent ever since Pakatan Rakyat dominates the state administration. The voters’ number has currently exceeded 340,000.

820 cases reported exposing the existence of 79,098 voters registered to a single address with at least 100 other voters.[9]

The voting constituency of 3.1 million non-residential voters did not correspond with the voters’ IC address.[10]

The presence of 59,000 suspicious voters, which were amongst 65,455 foreigners in the electoral roll, including descendants from the Philippines, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Spain, Malta and Slovakia. According to the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (MERAP), their IC numbers did not contain the “71″ code but they were too old to be born in Malaysia.[11]

Analysis on both the 2008 and 2010 electoral rolls by cross-referencing with the December 2011 roll had revealed that 106,743 names were deleted while 6,742 new ones were added without any indication or reason stated for deletion or addition.[12]

The abrupt increase of the EC officers from 140,000 to 240,000[13], and having all of them registered as postal voters.[14]

 

As a matter of course, supposedly PSC’s report ought to highlight on these issues, whereas EC should inevitably be held accountable for all these complaints. Sadly, none of the matters mentioned above get to be regarded as critical. The only thing that has been done so far by the EC is to get their information booklets published, in hope to rid off the negative public image it had garnered over the years; such a frivolity can definitely be compared to the shameless conduct by BN-led government whereby paying £17million to the controversial FBC Media in producing eight documentaries for the BBC about Malaysia in order to smother up and whitewash Najib’s administration that is rife with scandals.[15] [16]

 

According to the latest news by theMalaysianInsider, the EC has launched a special information booklet to counter all the “allegations” made by opposition lawmakers and civil society groups, which are said to discredit Malaysia’s election process. The 12-page booklets, costing RM4 each, consisted of EC’s responses to 12 allegations, including issues of the over 40,000 ‘doubtful voters’ in the current electoral roll, the alleged over-registration of voters in one single address, registration of foreigners as voters, the EC’s move to correct the voting localities of some 19,000 voters and others.[17] Furthermore, EC chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof repeatedly stressed that it was impossible for any country to have an electoral roll that is 100 per cent free from discrepancies and flaws. Perhaps, the EC chairman has totally forgotten the fact that an accurate and impartial electoral register is the pivot to the whole issue of whether the exercise of the vote is free and fair!

 

Conclusion

In fact, skepticism has already been revolved around the integrity and trustworthiness of the EC, and its role is constantly being questioned. Now that the PSC’s final report failed to impose directional supervision upon the EC to further rectify and improve election process in achieving a fair and clean election, the people’s skepticism about the electoral reform had been proven right. Considering the audacity of the government led by BN, which silently took legislative moves to push forward the Election Offences Act (Amendments) 2012 and bulldozed through parliament by the last day of the sitting on 19 April 2012, EC that claimed itself as an agency that “supports the system of Parliamentary Democracy and securing rights of citizens to choose their representative, as well as to manage, regulate and handle the elections fairly and independently”[18] had taken no endeavor to adhere its mission. Ironically, it has been granted unimpeded authority and access to dominate the voting process ever more than before through the amendments of the Election Offences Act. Being a cohort of the current ruling party, this is undoubtedly the reason why EC continues to remain silent.

 

“In fact, based on the explanations given by the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Election Commission during the course of the Committee meetings, we are more convinced that the EC has increasingly lost its credibility to fulfil its mandate freely and fairly.”

Minority Report

 

“The coalition is wholly unsatisfied with the PSC report, and has written a response to each of the 22 recommendations put forth in the report. In light of this unsatisfactory PSC report, the coalition has announced BERSIH 3.0.”

Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (BERSIH)

 

 


[12] Ibid.

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