Election Commission should stop being an ostrich hiding its head in the sand and own up courageously to its fundamental flaws to seek the co-operation of all political parties to do a better job of its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean elections
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Wednesday): The Election Commission should stop being an ostrich hiding its head in the sand and own up courageously to its fundamental flaws and seek the co-operation of all political parties to do a better job of its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean elections.
Election Commission Chairman Datuk Wira Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman yesterday accused me of “keterlaluan” in making various allegations against the Election Commission without proof. (Berita Harian)
I would like to ask Rashid what are the criticisms which I had levelled against the Election Commission for failing its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean elections which he requires proof, and I am prepared to compile a full dossier of such substantiation for him.
I had in the past few days called on the Election Commission to stop wasting time and resources on less essential and even trivial matters like poster/banner monitoring squads and focus on its primary constitutional duties to conduct free, fair and clean elections, and I stand by my criticisms.
Election Commission secretary Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said on Saturday that an election monitoring squad will be set up for each of the parliamentary constituencies to monitor polling day and campaigns during elections.
The squad, equipped with two four-wheel-drive vehicles, would include commission officials, candidates and representatives from the police and local authorities, to move around the constituency during the campaigning period to ensure all candidates adhere to the stipulated legislation and by-laws. The squad would be empowered to stop any activity which contravenes the law and take action against the offenders. It would be assigned to immediately remove banners or posters displayed at unauthorised areas and stop campaigners who give political speeches after the stipulated time.
I have described this as one of the most ridiculous proposals to come out of the Election Commission, not just because no candidate in any election would be so free as to be tied down in such a squad but because of the Election Commission’s total misconstruction of its constitutional mandate and what should be its primary responsibilities.
Something is very wrong about the Election Commission’s sense of priorities and its understanding of its constitutional mandate and responsibilities when it regards posters and banners as more important than the scandal of three million “phantom voters” who represent some 30 per cent of the total registered electorate, two million eligible voters but who are not on the electoral register and could not exercise their constitutional right to vote in an election, electoral abuses such as money politics, corrupt misuse of public resources and unfair media.
I had outlined eight areas which deserve higher priority and immediate attention of the Election Commission than minor or trivial concerns like poster/banner monitoring squads, viz:
There is an important ninth item to ensure an independent and credible Election Commission but this is outside the powers and jurisdiction of the Election Commission. As warned by University Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas) after a two-year study, the Malaysian electoral system and the Election Commission are facing a grave crisis of credibility, legitimacy and confidence, and topping the list of its urgent major reforms is the discontinuance of civil service appointees to the Election Commission with the post of Chairman and commissioners filled by leading public figures from diverse backgrounds such as judiciary, academia, relevant professional bodies and former senior diplomats.
Rashid can also refer to Election Watch reports on the previous general elections for more documentation on the failures of the Election Commission to carry out its primary constitutional responsibility to conduct free, fair and clean elections, for instance, the Interim Report of the 1999 Malaysian General Election by Malaysian Citizens’ Election Watch which cast grave doubts on the ability of the Election Commission to conduct free, fair and clean elections.
The Election Commission should also stop playing favourites between ruling and opposition parties, when it should treat all political parties equally. Why should the Election Commission be meeting the ruling parties today and Opposition parties tomorrow when it should be meeting all political parties, whether ruling or opposition, together in the same meeting to discuss its three proposals to be tabled at the next parliamentary meeting, including its “Akujanji” proposal for candidates and political parties?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman