Likas voters should decisively reject Barisan Nasional in the by-election tomorrow to protest against the proposed Constitutional amendment to legalise phantom voters on the electoral roll by making it non-disputable and unchallengeable in a court of law

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Friday): Although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that the amendments to the Malaysian  Constitution regarding voter registration  which would be presented in  the current meeting of Parliament  was “only routine and nothing radical”, they in fact constitute an unprecedented threat to the very integrity of the electoral system and Malaysian democracy.

This is because the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim had said a day earlier that with the constitutional amendments, the phantom voters issue would be put to rest as the electoral roll, once gazetted, will be “deemed true and non-disputable” and cannot be  challenged  in a court of law.

It is most shocking that a person who made a name for himself with his  study on the excesses of executive  power undermining the just rule of law in the country should now be spearheading a new attack on the doctrine of the separation of powers by excluding from judicial review a most pernicious abuse - “dirty” electoral rolls studded with phantom voters which make a mockery of a clean, free and fair election system.

After the Likas election petition judgement by Justice Muhammad Kamil Awang, who ticked off the Election Commission for  allowing non-citizens and "phantom voters" to appear on the Likas electoral roll, stating that the instances of non-citizens and phantom voters in the electoral roll as disclosed in the trial "may well  be the tip of the iceberg", Malaysians  had hoped that the judgement would shame  the Election Commission and other government agencies to undertake serious and effective measures to  clean up the electoral roll by removing all the phantom voters.

Everyone agreed with the judge about  the grave and prevalent problem of phantom voters on the electoral rolls, particularly in Sabah, including the Election Commission Chairman, Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, although he said it  was not the Election Commission’s fault.

He said: “The Election Commission should not be faulted for the existence of such voters.  We registered those who produced their identity cards as that was the only requirement.” (New Straits Times 13.6.2001)

Asked how this could have possibly happened, Abdul Rashid said fake identity cards were sold in the open in Sabah, including at pasar malam.  These identity cards, which were at one time sold at RM700 apiece, were now sold for as low as RM30.

Abdul Rashid said: “The Election Commission has become a victim of circumstances because the main issue here is not that the electoral roll is not clean.

“We can clean the roll…but how could non-citizens possess identity cards which are as good as the original ones in the first place?”

Abdul Rashid said no real effort had been made to check the problem.

He said: “The fake identity card business has been going on in Sabah since they joined Malaysia. That is the root of the whole problem.”

The next day, Abdul Rashid told the New Straits Times that the Election Commission was in no position to clean the electoral roll on its own, and that as long as there was no co-operation from government agencies and the public, the roll would continue to contain the names of non-citizens and phantom voters.

He agreed with Justice Muhammad Kamil that the problem of non-citizens registered as voters as disclosed in the Likas election petition was only the tip of the iceberg. He said the revelation by the judge had made Malaysians realise the long-standing problem in Sabah.

After all the publicity and  hullaballoo about the “long-standing problem” of phantom voters particularly in Sabah, including a directive by the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, to the National Registration Department to assist the Election Commission, what is the government’s  final solution to the problem?

Is the government deploying  all the resources of the state to become “phantom-busters” to clean up  the electoral rolls,  with Malaysians invited at all times  to help the authorities to expose the phantom voters so that Malaysian can show the world that we are capable of  producing a clean electoral roll?

No, the Barisan Nasional government has decided to close it eyes to the “tip of the long-standing problem” of non-citizens and phantom voters on the electoral roll as revealed by the Likas election petition and decided instead to legalise the legion of phantom voters by way of a constitutional amendment which would make  an electoral roll, once gazetted, undisputable and unchallengeable in a court of law.

This is a constitutional outrage and the Likas voters should decisively reject the Barisan Nasional in the by-election tomorrow to protest against the proposed constitutional amendment to legalise phantom voters by making an electoral roll non-disputable and unchallengeable in a court of law.

When this constitutional amendment is passed in the current meeting of Parliament, Malaysia  can again get into the Guinness Book of Records in being the only country in the world which provides constitutional protection to non-citizens and  phantom voters to vote and shape the future of the country.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman