FMT LETTER: From Steven Choong, via e-mail
The much awaited PSC’s final report was finally tabled in parliament and was passed without a debate on April 3, 2012. The Rakyat was skeptical about the reform that the PSC would bring and its 22 recommendations had proven the skeptics right.
The EC had been very evasive and defensive throughout the six PSC’s public hearings heard over the country that go to show that they have no intention to rid off the negative public image it had garnered over the years. Nevertheless, the Rakyat was still hopeful the PSC would make strong recommendations that EC would have no choice but to do some rectification works to gain some public trust.
However, most of the PSC’s 22 recommendations have no deadlines and are merely asking the EC to review the matters mentioned. Hence, the PSC has confirmed what the skeptics had been viewing them as just an exercise to show the Rakyat that BN is willing to look into anything but the results must always be pro-BN.
Despite many recommendations from the three main component parties of Pakatan Rakyat, Bersih, Tindak Malaysia, IDEAS and others as well as the disclosures of many irregularities in the electoral roll during the tenure of the PSC, the PSC did not appear to have understood the observations, problems and recommendations of the various parties.
Bersih and Tindak Malaysia had gathered a group of election observers and lawyers to re-look at the Federal Constitution, the Election laws and the supplementary regulations for ways to improve the election processes. Bersih and Tindak Malaysia had jointly presented the following revised and new laws and regulation to the PSC:
- Election Act (Revised)
- Election offences Act (Revised)
- Election (Conduct of Eleclection) Regulations (Revised)
- Election (Registration of Electors) Regulations (Revised)
- Election (Postal Voting) Regulations (Revised)
- Election (Advance Voting) Regulations (New)
- Election (Distance Voting) Regulations (New)
The existing Acts and Regulations (items 1-5) were revised and new laws (items 6-7) were introduced following the recommendations presented by all the parties in the PSC’s nationwide public hearings. Relevant provisions of the various Acts and Regulations were deleted, inserted or revised and two new Regulations were introduced to put in place an independent EC and a team of creditable EC Officers to deliver a fairer and cleaner election process.
If adopted, EC Board members, the State Election officer and his deputy, the Enforcement Officer, the Chief Registrar of Electors and his deputy, the State Registrar of Electors and his deputy, the Adjudicating Officers, the Returning and Presiding officers shall be appointed either wholly or partially from members of the public. The existing EC and the team of EC Officers are seen as non-independent and subservient to the ruling regime due to their past engagement as civil or public servants.
The revised Election (Registration of Electors) Regulations would also ensure that the electoral roll, that is the subject of all debates thus far, would be as clean as it could subject to the extent of collaboration from the public and the voters to come forward to verify the data in the electoral roll. The issue of phantom voters, double voting, impersonation and others would be significantly if not at all eliminated.
Any registered voter who is working overseas would have been given a ballot paper under the revised Election (Postal Voting) Regulations and the new Election (Distance Voting) Regulations. The length of campaign period will be determined by the length of time required to deliver and receive back a ballot paper from overseas.
With the introduction of the new Election (Advance Voting) Regulations, any police and army personnel who is not on posting outside its normal place of residence on polling day shall be casting his ballot paper 2-3 days earlier in a fixed polling station following almost all the same procedures as normal polling. Polling agents and counting agents would be allowed to monitor the polling and counting process in each polling station.
The new Election (Distance Voting) Regulations would allow Sabahans and Sarawakians working in West Malaysia and for West Malaysians working in Singapore and East Malaysia, to get their ballot papers to cast in specified locations as it would not be economical and feasible due to lack of enough flights for all of them to journey home to cast their votes.
The secrecy of voting would be ensured in the revised Election (Conduct of Eleclection) Regulations through the randomization of ballot papers. The many past incidents of the non-compliance of the Regulations on conduct of elections by the Returning and Presiding officers would have been overcome with the imposition of a fine of RM5,000 for each proven deliberated breach of conduct.
Tindak Malaysia also suggested how the existing mal-apportionment of voters between constituencies could be resolved without much costs and effort.
The exclusion of such good efforts from Bersih and Tindak Malaysia in the PSC’s recommendations was indeed a confirmation that the PSC, being a majority of BN and BN’s friendly members, was not set-up to address the 8 demands of Bersih 2 which culminated with the 709 demonstration.
Since it is now clear that a fair and clean election will not be in place for the 13th GE, it is understandable the Bersih 2’s steering committee is left with no alternative but to call for another peaceful demonstration on April 28, 2012 at Dataran Merdeka.
The writer is National Deputy Secretary General of PKR