Constitutional  amendment to legalise phantom  voters by excluding judicial review on legality of electoral roll should be deferred to  give  all political parties six  months  to expose non-citizens and phantom voters on the current electoral register

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Saturday): The Minister in the Prime Ministerís Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim has given a very weak and unsatisfactory  response to the DAP charge that it is a constitutional outrage to legalise the legion of non-citizens and  phantom voters by way of a constitutional amendment which would make  an electoral roll, once gazetted, undisputable and unchallengeable in a court of law.

Admitting that the constitutional amendments to be presented to Parliament next week would close the door on judicial review of the validity of the electoral roll, Rais claimed that there should be no cause for disputes over the validity of a roll in respect of new voters.

He said the Election Commission would check the identity card details of each voter with the National Registration Department (NRD), and only if the particulars tally with the NRDís list of naturalised citizens will the commission accept the registration and gazette the person as a voter.

Rais has made light of the intractable problem of non-citizens and phantom voters on the electoral roll, particularly in Sabah,  which  the Election Commission Chairman Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman admitted had been a persistent problem since Sabah joined Malaysia.

As Rashid said in desperation after Justice Muhammad Kamil Awang declared the Likas election null and void because  non-citizens and "phantom voters" appeared on the Likas electoral roll, the Election Commission should not be faulted for the existence of such voters when non-citizens could possess identity cards which are as good as the original ones in the first place.

Rashid said these fake identity cards  are being sold in the open in Sabah, including at pasar malam for as low as RM30, although they were  at one time sold at RM700 apiece.

In his judgement, Justice Muhammad Kamil  focussed  national attention on the  long-standing blemish in our electoral system which had  been ignored by the authorities despite endless protests by the Opposition, inside Parliament and Sabah State Assembly and outside.

As an illustration of the rampant problem of  phantom voters using fake identity cards or identity cards obtained illegally, Muhammad Kamil said in his judgement:

"PW13 Mutalib Md Daud, is a former Executive Secretary for Silam Umno Division and is still a member of Umno. Mutalib was born in Kg. Lanai, Kedah and initially held a Malayan identity card. In 1970 he migrated to Sabah under the 'Untuk kemajuan Ba' programme and settled down at a village name Kg. Burong, Lahad Datu where he found that a large number of illegal immigrants from Indonesia and Philippines had settled down.

"He observed that there were numerous immigrants who had obtained blue identity cards in a relatively short time, 3 months or 3 years, while it took him 23 years to change his Malayan identity card into an identity card of Sabah through the normal process. He testified that of the 43,000 new Umno members recruited at the time, only 14,000 had genuine blue identity cards, the rest he did not know how they got their blue identity cards.

"From 21st October 1996 there was an exercise to recruit Umno members for 3 days which attracted 10,211 new Umno members. They applied for identity cards, but only 180 applications for identity cards from these members were approved by Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara, and the rest were rejected.

"The instances of non-citizens and phantom voters in the electoral roll as disclosed at the trial may well be the tip of the iceberg. 'Phantom', according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, Ninth Edition, means a form without substance or reality; a ghost; a specter, and in the context of a phantom voter, it means that the voter is a non-citizen who is in an electoral roll by virtue of a fake identity card or identity card obtained illegally. It cannot be denied that the registration of voters in the Likas electoral roll was in contravention of the law. No one, including the government department or institution, is above the law.

"It is common knowledge that an influx of illegal immigrants has plagued Sabah for some years. It is a well known fact as it had appeared in the local dailies too frequently. The SPR ought to be aware of it and when the objections were raised as in this case, the SPR ought to have held a public inquiry as prescribed by the election laws.

"The exposure of fraudulent practices such as massive registration of phantom voters is time-consuming. However, it has to be done if we wish to defend and preserve the meaningful practice of democracy in Malaysia. As custodians of free and fair elections, the SPR is duty-bound to do it."

The proposed constitutional amendment to exclude a gazetted electoral review from judicial review is not to expose the fraudulent practice  of the massive registrationn of  non-citizens and phantom voters on the electoral roll, but to legalise the legion of non-citizens and phantom voters on the electoral roll!

Although the problem of non-citizens and phantom voters had plagued Sabah for three decades, the problem of phantom voters is also prevalent  in Peninsular Malaysia, not so much concerning non-citizens, but voters who had been illegally registered in constituencies which are neither their place of residence or work to improperly influence the outcome of election results.

These phantom voters should also be exposed and cleaned up, because they had not only made a false declaration of their qualification to vote in the constituency they are registered, this is a pernicious electoral practice which cannot be permitted if we want a free, fair and clean election system in Malaysia.

The proposed constitutional amendment to make a gazetted electoral roll undisputable and unchallengeable in a court of law is a step backward as it not only tantamounts to an   amnesty to all non-citizens and phantom voters exoneratng them from the offence of illegally registering  on the electoral roll - it legalises  the electoral status of non-citizens and phantom voters to help decide the political destiny of the nation.

With such a constitutional amendment, non-citizens and phantom  voters on our electoral roll automatically become citizens and legitimate voters as their status could no longer be challenged in a court of law.  How could any government which respects the rule of law and the integrity of the electoral system  even think of such a proposal, let alone presenting it in Parliament as a formal constitutional proposal?

The least the government should do is to defer the constitutional  amendment to legalise non-citizens and phantom  voters  on the electoral roll by excluding judicial review and  give  all political parties six  months  to expose non-citizens and phantom voters on the current electoral register - before deciding whether such a proposal should ever be considered.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman