(Petaling Jaya, Friday): There is something very
"fishy" about the new
electoral constituency redelineation exercise which raises very serious
questions about the
transparency, independence and integrity of Election Commission,
the redelineation exercise and the larger question as to whether there
could be free, fair and clean elections in Malaysia.
I was shocked when I read in the media
on Wednesday of the announcement by
the Election Commission Chairman Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman
that the study of the redelineation
of the election boundaries has been
completed and will be displayed for public viewing by July or August.
Abdul Rashid said this at a press
conference in Kota Kinabalu on Tuesday announcing that the Election Commission
has proposed a 25% increase in the number of state and parliamentary
constituencies in Sabah, to increase the present 20 parliamentary and 48 state
assembly seats in Sabah to 25 parliamentary and 60 state assembly seats.
I had thought that Abdul Rashid was
referring to the public inspection for objections and representations for the
new redelineation of election boundaries for Sabah but the various media reports
seem to refer not just to Sabah but to the new national redelineation of
electoral constituencies. This
morning, I received confirmation from the Election Commission in Putrajaya that
Abdul Rashid was referring to the national exercise for redelineation of
election boundaries when he announced that they would be displayed for public
viewing by July or August.
I am quite dumbfounded by this
confirmation, for Parliament was only informed last month (April 2, 2002)
by the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Tan Sri Bernard
Dompok during question time that
the forthcoming redelineation exercise for parliamentary and state assembly
constituencies will be completed within two years but the date for the start of
the exercise had not been determined yet.
The Election Commission has not made
any public announcement that it has started its redelineation exercise although
the Election Commission Secretary, Datuk
Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, had publicly stated that it is a lengthy process and this is
why the commission has up to two
years to conduct the exercise.
If the Election Commission could
complete its redelineation exercise to be ready for public display, inspection
and objection by July or August, and Parliament could be told in early April
that it had not started work and the date of the start of the exercise had not
been determined yet, this would mean that the Election Commission is working a
breakneck speed and taking less
than three months to wrap up its redelineation exercise to be ready for public
display - which must be the fastest redelineation of electoral boundaries
exercise in the history of the Election Commission since Independence!
The unusual speed of the electoral
constituency redelineation exercise raises the question as to whether the
Election Commission had been given a directive to accelerate the whole process,
which in the past had taken over year, as there is a great likelihood that the
Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad may want to call for an early
general election within the next 12 months.
Memories are still fresh among
Malaysians at the inexplicable
long-drawn-out process of the voters' registration exercise in 1999 dragging out
for some 10 months disenfranchising 680,000 new voters from their constitutional
right to cast their vote in the 1999 general election.
If the 680,000 new voters had been able
to vote in the last general election, the Barisan Nasional would most probably
have lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority, bringing about a sea-change in
Malaysian politics ushering in a new era of greater democracy, accountability
This was because in the last general
election, the opposition was short of 20 seats to reach the magic figure of 65
to deny the Barisan Nasional its uninterrupted parliamentary majority.
The Barisan Alternative had lost 29 parliamentary seats with less than
10% margin majorities, and the 680,000 new voters could have made the difference
whether the Barisan Nasional was deprived of the two-thirds parliamentary
majority by losing in at least
another 20 seats if they had not been unfairly disenfranchised by the 10-month
delay of the Election Commission to put them on the electoral register.
The Constitution envisages an independent Election Commission which is not a creature of the ruling parties, operating at fantastic speed or unprecedented dilatoriness whichever served the Barisan Nasional's agenda at any particular time. The Election Commission must show greater greater transparency in the electoral constituency redelineation exercise.