Election Commission should withhold the issue of the 235,104 postal ballots unless the armed forces and police are prepared to allow polling agents of candidates to monitor the free casting of the postal votes


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang 
 

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Election Commission Chairman, Datuk Omar Mohd Hashim said the Election Commission has completed its preparatory work and is ready to conduct the 10th general election any time.

The Election Commission may be all prepared for the next general election but it is clearly unprepared as far as conducting a fair, free and clean general election or to ensure that the next election would not be the "dirtiest" in history, as warned by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, recently.

The unpreparedness of the Election Commission to ensure that the next election would be a free, fair and clean one can be seen by Omarís refusal for the Election Commission to take responsibility to take effective measures to prevent the rigging of postal voters from the armed forces and the police - which had  always marred previous general elections.

This was the biggest complaint of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah against the Election Commission when he was President of Semangat 46 - and the substance of his complaint is not altered by his returning to UMNO as Kelantan UMNO Chairman to wrest power in the state from PAS.

Omar said in the past, the postal votes which now number 235,104 postal ballots would be handed over to the adjutants or administration officers who would pass them to their men.

This time, the Election Commission would place a commission official at the camps when ballot papers were handed over to the personnel.

Omar said: "What happens after that is beryond our control.  The officers and their wives mark and place the sealed ballot papers in the box."

This is totally unsatisfactory, and the Election Commission would be failing in its constitutional duty to conduct free and fair election unless it could put in place a system where contesting political parties can post election agents to ensure that the army and police personnel could vote freely, and not under duress or coercion.

The excuse which has been given by the Election Commission so far is that the army and police have refused to allow polling agents of political parlties to have access to security establishments to monitor the fair casting of postal ballots.

If the army and police continue to refuse to allow the Election Commission to carry out its constitutional duty to conduct free and fair elections by providing for all casting of votes to be observed by polling agents of contesting candidates, then the Election Commission should withhold the issue of the 235,104 postal ballots until the armed forces and polices comply with the electoral requirements.

In his press conference yesterday, Omar also said that the independence of the Election Commission should not be questioned as it had shown its impartiality at all times.

He claimed that the commission has the power to decide on the length of the campaign period and that no one interfered in their decision.

If the Election Commission conducts a national public opinion poll as to whether Malaysians believe that the Election Commission enjoys true independence and has the power to decide on the length of the election campaign period, I have no doubt that the overwhelming answer will be in the negative.

It is open secret that when the Prime Minister dissolves Parliament, he has already decided on the polling day, which would include the length of the election campaign period - and the claim that the Election Commission has the sole constitutional right to determine the length of the election campaign period is pure fiction.

As Mahathir has warned that the next election will be the "dirtiest" in  history, the next election will see one of the shortest campaign periods, if not the shortest in the nationís history, as this is one of the "dirty" tactics of the ruling National Front to put  the Opposition at a grave disadvantage.

Apart from the 15-day election campaign period during Mahathirís first general election in 1982, there were only a nine-day campaign period in 1986 and a 10-day campaign period in 1990 and 1995 general elections.

Is the present Election Commission able to restore its constitutional independence by jealously safeguarding  its sole prerogative to decide on the election campaign period without having to comply with the directive from the Prime Minister, and ensure that there would be a fair campaign period  of at least 21 days from Nomination Day to Polling?

(18/8/99)


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