I call on the Election Commission to provide a minimum three-week election campaign period from Nomination to Polling to tell the whole world that Malaysian democracy has come of age and the tenth general election will not be the "dirtiest" in the nation's history.
I am shocked by forecast from very reliable Barisan Nasional sources that nomination will be on November 18 and polling on November 28, providing for seven days between dissolution and nomination and a 10-day campaign period after Nomination.
This will be most unacceptable and will create a national and international furore that the Election Commission is not independent as well as being unmindful of its constitutional responsibility to conduct a free, fair and clean general election - as a general election is not just about casting votes but must involve a democratic election campaign and process where the voters have access to all competing policies, programmes, criticisms, viewpoints and explanations to enable them to make an informed and intelligent choice on polling day.
Omar referred to the problems faced by the Election Commission because the SPM examinations will begin from November 22 to December 10, to be followed by the STPM examinations. About 70 per cent of the 109,000 election workers to be desptached for the polls are teachers and most of the polling stations which had been gazetted by the Election Commission for the general election are schools.
To overcome this problem, I will suggest a three-week deferment of the SPM and STPM examinations so that there could be a minimum of 21-day campaign period for the tenth general election as well as to ensure that the election could be conducted smoothly and efficiently. This will also ensure that the polling could be held before the start of the fasting month, scheduled on Dec. 8 or 9.
If the Election Commission announces tomorrow that there is only going to be a 10-day campaign period instead of a mimimal 21-day campaign period, then it would be seen as a second blow to public hopes that the tenth general election will be a fair, free and clean one - the first blow being the disenfranchisement of 650,000 new voters who had registered as voters six months ago!
New Zealanders can register as voters as late as 26th November, 1999 – the eve of New Zealand general election, which is Nov. 27 – and get to vote the next day. There can be no excuse why in Malaysia, which wants to be in the forefront of Information Technology and introduce electronic government, 650,000 new voters who registered six months ago are disenfranchised in the forthcoming general election.
At its meeting tomorrow, the Election Commission should set up a special task force to ensure that the Barisan Nasional government does not abuse its powers as a caretaker government. With the dissolution of Parliament, the Cabinet is a caretaker Cabinet without executive powers.
During the period of caretaker government, Ministers cannot distribute funds or promise allocations nor can they make use of government machinery and public funds to go round the country to campaign for the Barisan Nasional. RTM must be a greater pains to demonstrate that it is Radio/Television Malaysia and not Radio/Television Mahathir, providing fair television time to all political parties and requiring all Barisan Nasional Ministers and leaders to pay television advertising fees if they are allotted television time denied to the Barisan Alternative.