Bersih calls for RCI into ‘electoral misconduct’ in May 9 polls

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann (left) chairing a press conference today. On his left is Bersih executive director Yap Swee Seng.

PETALING JAYA: Electoral reforms group Bersih 2.0 today urged the prime minister to advise the king to form a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) into alleged electoral misconduct leading up to the general election last year.

This comes after the tribunal to hear allegations of misconduct against six former Election Commission (EC) members decided not to proceed with the hearing, saying the case is now academic as the individuals have resigned.

Bersih chairman Thomas Fann said the decision was disappointing.

“What was important for us and to the AG (attorney-general) was not just the matter of removing them. In that process of investigation, the public would have found out exactly what happened over the years.

“So when the tribunal decided not to continue with the hearing, we decided the next thing that has to happen is that the government must form an RCI into the electoral misconduct during GE14,” he said at a press conference at Bersih’s office here.

On May 24, panel chairman Steve Shim said it would be an exercise in futility to try former EC deputy chairman Othman Mahmood and fellow ex-commissioners Md Yusop Mansor, Abdul Aziz Khalidin, Sulaiman Narawi, Bala Singam Karupiah and Leo Chong Cheong.

“Issues that have been rendered academic must not be heard unless there is a good reason for this,” he said in the majority decision, which was also agreed to by panel members Zaleha Zahari and Suriyadi Halim Omar.

But two other panel members, Jeffrey Tan and Prasad Sandosham Abrahim, said the hearing against the six men should proceed as it has to do with Malaysia’s democratic process.

Fann said the terms of reference for the RCI should include alleged misconduct, abuse of power or shortcomings by the former EC members during the election, as well as any attempts to manipulate the electoral roll used for the May 9 polls.

He said the RCI should also recommend action to be taken against the former EC members and any others who are found complicit, as well as changes in laws to strengthen the electoral system.

He said other issues for investigation include:

  1. The unconstitutional re-delineation of electoral boundaries that led to malapportionment and gerrymandering of constituencies, allegedly to favour Barisan Nasional;
  2. The decision to fix polling day on a Wednesday along with a minimum campaign period of 11 days “without any basis or explanation”;
  3. The “flawed” postal voting system which made it “impossible” for registered voters overseas to send back their ballots by polling day;
  4. The destruction of voters’ addresses in the electoral roll, where almost 15% of voters were recorded without an address;
  5. The decision to bar the accredited observation and oversight of the polls by independent observers like the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, and;
  6. The registering and shifting of army voters – before the barracks were fully completed – and normal voters into constituencies where they were not residents.

Fann said Bersih is ready to assist the RCI panel in furnishing witnesses and data. He said the panel should investigate the events of May 6, 2013 to May 10, 2013 as well, along with commissioners who were in office before GE14 in 2018.

He added however that the RCI is not just a “fault-finding” or “finger-pointing” exercise, but a means to identify weaknesses and shortcomings in the electoral system so that steps can be taken towards reform and the restoration of public confidence in Malaysian elections.

This is not the first time that Bersih has called for an RCI into alleged electoral fraud and offences during the May 9 polls.

Shortly after the election last year, Bersih said an RCI should investigate the role played by election commissioners in addressing or failing to address the alleged offences.

Fann said if the government declines to form an RCI for this purpose, it should explain why. He added that Bersih would wait for Putrajaya’s response before deciding on its next course of action.