(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Although I welcome the statement by the Election Commission Chairman, Datuk Harun Din that all political parties and NGOs can assist the Election Commission in the voter registration exercise, the Election Commission should give all political parties and NGOs the facilities and opportunities for doing so, and not just give special advantages to the ruling parties.
In the 1995 general elections, many voters who had voted in previous general elections found that their names had been arbitrarily removed from the electoral register, denying them the constitutional right to vote and creating a lot of unnecessary hardships and hassle on voting day.
The voters' registration exercise is not only for new eligible voters to register themselves, but also for voters in general to check whether their names are still on the electoral register and if not, to get themselves re-reregistered.
However, this would require a system whereby voters could check whether their names are still on the electoral register. Unfortunately, the Election Commission does not provide a voter-friendly system where voters could easily and conveniently conduct such a check.
The government is talking about introducing electronic government where the people could pay taxes, renew licences and even apply for various government facilities from their homes or offices without the hassle of going through traffic jams or queuing up in government offices.
In the era of Information Technology, the Election Commission should put the entire electoral roll online to facilitate checks by Malaysians whether they are still on the electoral register, and if not, to re-register themselves during the current voters' registration period.
Parliament had allocated tens of millions of ringgit to the Election Commission to computerise its voters' rolls and there is no reason why the electoral roll of 9.3 million voters could not be posted online for Malaysians, either directly or through relatives, friends, political parties or NGOs, who have access to the Internet, to carry out such a verification of their status as voters.
This is the fourth day of the 30-day voters' registration exercise, but most of the voters' registration centres are empty, primarily because of the lack of proper publicity campaign before the exercise.
Going by past experience, without adequate pre-publicity of the voters' registration exercise, the people would only come to know about the voters' registration exercise and the importance of registering themselves especially as this is likely to be the last exercise before the general elections by the third or fourth week, when the campaign would be entering its last few days.
What the Election Commission should have done is to spend two weeks on a pre-publicity campaign so that the people are fully informed about the voters' registration exercise beforehand, so that registration centres are busy with people who want to register as voters on the very first day of the exercise!
As it is, the optimal period for the voters' registration exercise will begin on the third week, with people looking for the voters' registration centres when there is only one week left. Under the law, the Election Commission is allowed to conduct voters' registration exercise for 42 days a year, and I call on the Election Commission to extend the 30-day exercise to a full 42-day period, especially as the Election Commission has failed to conduct a proper pre-publicity campaign to make full use of the first three weeks of the voters' registration exercise.