As late as May 7, a number of overseas Malaysians who registered to vote by post were notified by the Election Commission (EC) that they would receive their ballot papers on May 8, one day before the election.
Well, what use is that? Surely the EC is aware that election day is on May 9. Is this a deliberate ploy to deprive Malaysians of their right to vote?
Worse still was the response from Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed, who dismissed the complaints by overseas voters, saying they form less than 1% of the population.
“Number of Malaysians voting overseas is abt 8,000 and not even 0.1% of the population as I thought earlier. Dont get excited abt it,” he said in a post on Twitter.
Such condescension! Has Nur Jazlan forgotten that Malaysians working or studying overseas also have a constitutional right to vote? Who is he to deny them that right or to brush aside their complaints?
Surely he cannot get more aloof than that. Would he have pressured the EC to pull out the stops and ensure a more effective system if overseas voters represented 10% of the population?
It doesn’t matter if overseas Malaysians represent 0.1%, 0.01% or even 0.001% of the population. Even if there was only one person voting overseas, that person’s right to vote is enshrined in the constitution.
Nur Jazlan has to ensure that the voting process is carried out smoothly. His job is to facilitate the process, not to offer trite excuses or be dismissive of the system’s abject failure.
The EC has already betrayed Malaysians with the redrawing of electoral boundaries in its redelineation exercise. The short campaign period also makes it impossible for voters to receive their ballot papers on time.
According to Global Bersih, the EC suddenly laid out new guidelines that said postal voters must get a fellow Malaysian to act as their witness. Well, in some remote parts of the world, there may not be any other Malaysian around.
In fact, last month Malaysians were shocked to realise that they could not go to their respective high commissions or embassies to vote. Fortunately, many found out in time and applied to be postal voters instead.
These sudden announcements do not make for a smooth electoral process. Many Malaysians believe their right to vote is being sabotaged by the EC, the very authority that should be ensuring an efficient voting process.
Perhaps the frustrations of overseas Malaysians can be summed up in the words of one working in Wales, who said: “The EC had five years since the last general election to get things right and working smoothly, but it cannot even do that.
“It has vast resources at its disposal, and it has had plenty of time. If they cannot get this right, what business have they managing the EC?
“They probably need a new leader, or someone who is accountable for his actions and is more committed to allowing voting Malaysians to exercise their rights.”
Global Bersih has invited Malaysians facing issues with their postal votes to take part in a survey. The information gathered will be used by Global Bersih and MyOverseasVote to seek legal redress.
Those who are satisfied with the process are also encouraged to take part.
The survey can be found at: DATA COLLECTION ON GE 14 by Global Bersih
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily those of FMT.