DAP considering constitutional challenge to the disenfranchisement of 650,000 new voters in the tenth general election

Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): The disenfranchisement of the 650,000 new voters who registered six months ago in April/May is not only a blot and shame for the tenth general election, instantly failing it as a free, fair and clean election, but unlawful and unconstitutional.

DAP has been advised that the refusal of the Election Commission to allow the newly registered voters to vote on Nov. 29, 1999 because the preparation and revision of the 1999 electoral roll are not complete is not justified by the wording of  Article 119 (4) of the Malaysian Constitution on "Qualification of electors"  which reads:

Under Article 119(1), any citizen who has attained the age of 21 years on the "qualifying date" is entitled to vote in any election to the House of Representatives or the Legislative Assembly, unless disqulaified.

The question therefore is how to interpret the  "disqualifying date" which is defined to mean "the date by reference to which the electoral rolls are prepared and revised".

So far as the new voters are concerned as well as the old voters, the rolls were prepared and revised in April this year.  This is the date on which the Election Commission invited applications for registration of new voters or revision of the old ones.  This date must be the "qualifying date".

The Constitution does not speak of the word "date" in plural but in singular nor does the Constitution speak of the "completion of the preparation or revision".

The "qualifying date" therefore must be the date when the preparation or the revision of the rolls commences.  The Constitution is not concerned with the completion of the preparation or revision.  If it is so, the Constitution would have to define the "qualifying date" as "the date of the completion of the registration or revision".

The  position taken by the Election Commission that the exercise of the voting rights of the new voters depends upon the completion of the preparation and revision of the electoral rolls would amount to an unauthorised postponement of citizens’ right to vote as they can vote only at subsequent general election by which time the newly-registered voters would have reached the age of 26 years. This would be flatly in violation of Article 119(1).

If DAP decides to proceed to challenge the constitutionality of the disenfranchisement of the 650,000 new voters, we will try to file legal action to stop to holding of the general election on November 20, and to demand the fixing of new general election dates so that the 650,000 new voters are not deprived of their constitutional right to vote.

Apart from acting unconstitutionally, the Election Commission has made Malaysia an international laughing-stock in needing  nine months to revise its electoral register when in  New Zealand, people can still vote for the general election on Nov.  27 if they enrol the day before polling day.

In other countries, the Election Commission went out of its  way to ensure that every eligible voter is registered so that he or she could exercise the constitutional right to vote during general elections - and it would be a scandal of the first magnitude if 650,000 new voters are disenfranchised after having registered for eight to nine months, requiring the Election Commission
Chairman and its principal officers to resign in disgrace!

In Malaysia, however, the Election Commission is not motivated by the mission to ensure that every eligible voter could register and vote in a general election held once in four or five years. What is worse, the Election Commission could be so smug and incompetent as to justify the disenfranchisement of 650,000 new voters in the tenth general election because it  does not have eight to nine months to complete the revision of the 1999 electoral roll!

In an era of Information Technology (IT) and electronic government, the tenth Malaysian general election is really scandalous  in disenfranchising 650,000 new voters.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong