Saturday, August 13, 2011

Don: EC's response to Bersih 'embarrassing'

Don: EC's response to Bersih 'embarrassing'
Aidila Razak
Aug 13, 11

The Election Commission was today slammed for giving "embarrassing" answers to the demands made by the coalition for clean and fair election, Bersih 2.0.

At a forum organised by the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim) today, Universiti Malaya dean of social sciences Redzuan Othman said that the EC's response to the eight demands were "intellectually shallow" and not reflecting reality.

Abim forum on democracyIn particular, the expert in Malaysian political history honed in on the commission's assertion that postal votes are required to allow students overseas to exercise their franchise.

"I was a student in the UK in 1986 and when Parliament was dissolved, I went straight to the high commission and was told that there wasn't enough time for them to register me as a postal voter.

"100 percent of Malaysian students in the UK then did not vote at that election. This argument by the EC is embarrassing," said Redzuan when addressing about 100 people at Kolej Darul Hikmah, Kajang.

Malaysia is not Iraq

He was also unconvinced by the commission's claim that a longer campaign period is not possible for fear that it would create security issues.

"Elections in Malaysia are not like in Iraq where candidates' photos are not published for fear of assassination. There has never been a single drop of blood shed throughout our history of elections.

NONE"In fact, elections are much awaited, particularly by-elections which are like much-anticipated carnivals," he said.

He added that from 1955 to 1969, the maximum campaign period for general election was a whopping 42 days, dwindling to a measly eight days in 2004.

The EC, he said, also has a significant impact on the outcome of polls, like in 1999 when the commission decided not to gazette into the electoral roll 650,000 people registered as voters.

"Many seats won by the BN were won by postal votes or small margins then, so many have wondered at the possibilities had the 650,000 been gazetted into the roll," he said.

Legislation of referendum mooted

Also on the panel was Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah who proposed that legislation for referendums be introduced in Malaysia to allow average citizens greater say in policy making.

Speaking at the forum whose theme was electoral reform and democracy, Saifuddin said this is important as a "mature democracy cannot just rely on elections".

"The government of the day should get the approval of not just Parliament but also the people on fundamental issues," he said.

According to the Umno supreme council member, a referendum system can complement a representative system to match the growing needs of society.

NONEThe Temerloh MP, who lamented having to play the role of "goalkeeper" at the forum, also reiterated his call for automatic registration of voters at age 18.

"Even if we don't get to do this for the 13th general election a roadmap must be in place.

"If we measure democracy by how many rightful voters are voting then we should remove all barriers to this.

"Amend the constitution if required and change other legislation which come in the way," Saifuddin (right) said.

State still condescending

He added that while Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak should be lauded for allowing "30,000 people to participate in national policy" through the formation of labs and roundtable discussions, the government is still "condescending" in its response to civil society.

"In Malaysia, the relationship between state and civil society needs to be improved. It's still too condescending and there is no trust by the state, particularly for the young, students and academics.

"This is why the University and University Colleges Act exists... but it is not rocket science, the state and civil society should in fact interface in a synergy," he said.

Also on the panel was Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs director Wan Mohd Firdaus Wan Mohd Fuaad.

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