Unconstitutional disenfranchisement of 680,000 new voters an important Barisan Nasional strategy to retain two-thirds majority in the first millennium Parliament in Malaysia


Media Conference Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang
 

(Kuala Lumpura,  Wednesday): The  Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr.  Mahathir Mohamad said in a TV 3 interview broadcast yesterday that the Barisan Nasional would  easily win a  two-thirds majority in the eight-day snap general election.

He said: "A two-thirds majority is not difficult for us to  achieve."

The unconstitutional disenfranchisement of 680,000 new voters is  an important Barisan Nasional strategy to retain two-thirds majority in the first millennium Parliament in Malaysia.

If the 680,000 new voters who had registererd six months ago in April/May, constituting some seven per cent of the total electorate in the 1999 electoral register which has not been completed,  are allowed to vote, they would decisively influence the outcome of 70 - 80 parliamentary seats, ensuring the effective ending of the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority and political hegemony.

This is why Mahathir is not prepared to allow the 680,000 new voters, comprising mostly the young generation of Malaysians, to vote in the tenth general election, and we have the scandal of the Election Commission in the age of Information Technology and electronic government requiring eight to nine months to complete its 1999 electoral roll.

Barisan Nasional Ministers had told Parliament before its dissolution 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 completely  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.

Parliament was also told 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.

What is important to note is that whatever the length of time it took for the Election Commission to prepare the electoral roll, four months or eight months,  there had never been an occasion in the past nine general elections  since 1959  where new voters who had registered were disenfranchised on the purported ground that the new electoral roll was not ready.

The Election Commission, in having to comply with the wishes of the Prime Minister  not to allow the 680,000 new voters to vote in the tenth general election, has brought shame and infamy to Malaysia in dragging out the votersí registration exercise.

In New Zealand, where general election would be held on Nov. 27, New Zealanders can register as late as Nov. 26 to be able to vote the next day. Malaysians are not asking for such efficiency from the Election Commission, but to disenfranchise 680,000 new voters after having registered six months ago is really scandalous apart from being unconstitutional.

I hope the courts will strike down such an unconstitutional disenfranchisement of the 680,000 new voters and require the Election Commission to set new dates for nomination and polling to ensure that the 680,000 new voters are placed on the electoral roll for polling.

Election Commission Chairman Datuk Omar Mohd Hashim said yesterday that polling might be postponed in areas which are hit by floods during the elections.

It is even more important to postpone the election until the 680,000 new voters are able to cast their vote.

Utusan Malaysia today reported Election Commission Secretary Datuk Wan Ahmad Omarís reaction to my media conference yesterday about the unconstitutionality of  disenfranchising the 680,000 new voters who registered six months ago.

He said I had referred  only to a portion of the laws in challenging the unconstitutionality of the Election Commission over the disenfranchisement of the 680,000 new voters, claiming that I had ignored Article 113(1) of the Constitution and Section 19 of the Election Act 1958 which empowered the Election Commission to enact regulations governing elections, including the preparation and revision of electoral rolls.

Wan Ahmad cannot be more mistaken.  Article 113(1)  merely provides that it shall be the duty of the Election Commission to prepare and revise electoral rolls for elections, but  it does not confer powers on the Election Commission to act unconstitutionally to prepare and revise electoral rolls in violation of Article 119(4) which defines  the "qualifying date" when a citizen is entitled to vote in any Parliamentary election as the date when the Election Commission begins its preparation and revision of electoral rolls and not at its completion or to make regulations which violate the Constitution.

(17/11/99)


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