I am very dissatisfied with the reply given by the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Nazri Aziz, during the winding up of the debate on the 1999 supplementary estimates last week on the many issues I had raised about the Election Commissionís preparation for the nationís tenth general election.
Nazri had even misled the House and the people when he said that there had been instances in previous general elections when voters could not vote because the new electoral roll being prepared by the Election Commission was not ready when Parliament was dissolved.
This is untrue. I have checked the four previous general elections held under the tenure of Mahathir as Prime Minister, whether 1982, 1986, 1990 or 1995, and in everyone of these general elections, the electoral roll used was the latest one, and there was never an occasion when new voters could not exercise their constitutional right to vote because the new electoral roll was in the process of revision and was not yet ready.
Nazri also misled Parliament when he said that it was not unusual for the Election Commission to take eight months to prepare its electoral roll.
For the new electoral roll used for the 1995 general election, the Election Commission took six months and nine days to prepare. For the 1990 general election, it took four months to prepare the new electoral roll for the whole of Malaysia except for Sabah, which took another month.
For the 1986 general election, the Election Commission took eight months and four days to prepare the new electoral roll for the whole of Malaysia except for Sabah. For the 1982 general election, the Election Commission took five months 19 days to prepare the new electoral roll.
Why then should the Election Commission, on the eve of the new millennium and in the age of Information Technology, take more than eight months to prepare the latest electoral roll, as the votersí registration exercise ended in the first week of May.
The Election Commission will be taking more than eight months to prepare the new electoral roll if the new electoral register cannot be ready by Hari Raya on 7th or 8th January 2000.
It is open secret that the Barisan Nasional is uneasy with the new electoral roll being prepared by the Election Commission, because it will have 650,000 new voters, mostly from the younger generation.
The Barisan Nasional has no confidence that it could get the support of the majority of the young generation of Malaysia, and this is why it is worried that it would not be able to preserve its two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next election if the 650,000 new young voters are allowed to vote.
There are people who had expected Parliament to be dissolved after the 25th anniversary Barisan Nasional bash the previous Sunday on Oct. 24 or after the 2000 Budget last Friday. I am now more inclined to the view that Parliament would not be dissolved this month because Mahathir needs more time to ensure that he could secure two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next election.
If Parliament is not dissolved this month, then the tenth general election cannot be held until after the Hari Raya on 7th or 8th January 2000. However, as the Barisan Nasional is loth to use the new electoral roll being prepared by the Election Commission because of its 650,000 new young voters, it is likely that the general election would be held around the third week of January.
The question is whether the Election Commission would collude with the Barisan Nasional to deliberately delay the finalisation of the new electoral roll so that it would not be in time for the next general election if it is held in the second half of January.
I do not wish to question or doubt the independence and integrity of the Election Commission as the DAP wants it to be able to carry out its constitutional mandate and responsibility to conduct a free and fair general election.
It is important, however, that the Election Commission should conduct itself in a manner so as to avoid suspicion that it is in any way implicated in a campaign to make the next election the "dirtiest" in the nationís history by denying the new 650,000 voters a chance to cast their vote in the next general election.
This is why the Election Commission should give satisfactory and acceptable
explanation as to why it is going to take the longest time since Mahathir
became Prime Minister to finalise the preparation of the new electoral
roll and why it is impossible for the Election Commission to speed up the
process to ensure that the new electoral roll would be completed latest
by the end of this year.