Make Malaysia Election Commission a totally independent body that reports directly to Parliament
The Indian General Parliamentary Elections is now in progress. It is conducted in phases and has started on April 12. It will end on May 12. Voting will take place in 543 constituencies.
The election will involve over 500 million eligible voters, making the Indian general election as one having the largest voter population in the world.
YB A. Sivanesan, Segaran (DAP Ipoh Barat Chairman), Vembersan (PKR Klang) and I decided to go and witness the ongoing General Elections.
We arrived on the 16th April in Chennai. On the next day, we were taken by the Indian official to the Election Commissioner’s office of Tamil Nadu.
We attended a 2 hour briefing on the do’s and don’ts of the General Parliamentary Elections. The head of Election Commission, Mr. Parveen Kumar briefed us and took questions from us.
Among the matters he told us were:-
1) A parliamentary candidate can spend up to 40lakhs. (A Malaysian candidate contesting Parliamentary elections can expend to the limit of RM200 K).
2) Candidates are not allowed to put up banners and posters in their constituency. But during the elections, if the candidate is holding a public rally or meeting the people at a certain area, the candidate is allowed to put up banners and posters within 12 hours before the event and all these banners and posters must be removed within 4 hours after the event.
3) The electoral rolls of voters have photos of the voters. Further, CCTV and Video cams are operating at all times at the voting center. This process prevents cheating and does away with ghosts voters.
4) During the Parliamentary Elections, the local councils, state Government and related elected representatives are disallowed to announce any new policy or do any act which may influence the voters.
We had an appointment to meet with the Mayor of Chennai. But just a few hours before the event, the Election Commission called us to cancel the meeting. It was done to prevent any form of advantage it might occur /give to the Mayor’s party by our meeting.
5) We were showed the process of electronic voting. We were taken to a school in Chennai and even the inedible ink was put on our finger. (The ink is still on my finger after nearly a week!)
We were given to understand that a team from the Indian Election Commission had come to Kuala Lumpur some 3 months ago and had demonstrated the Electronic voting system to our Election Commission office.
6) Any political party can set up their own TV station and telecast the policies and programmes of their party. Printing presses are allowed to flourish without control.
We were in India for only 2 days as we had to cut short the originally planned week long visit due to Karpal Singh’s untimely demise. Upon being informed of the sudden passing of our most beloved and respected leader, we immediately changed our flight schedule to rush back to Malaysia so that we could attend his funeral on April 20th.
Nevertheless, during the 2 days of our tour in India, we were exposed with the latest full proof technology and in the process learned a lot. We are grateful to both the Indian High Commission in Malaysia, in particular His Excellency Mr Tirumorthi and the Election Commission of Tamil Nadu for facilitating the tour.
Many issues including vote rigging, ghost voters, lack of media space for opposition parties have continued to surface in Malaysia general elections although the nation has held 13 general elections.
I am sure that Malaysia Election Commission (EC) is aware of how these issues can be tackled by adopting the measures practiced by the Indian Election Commission. If they are not, I will certainly make them aware through coming Parliament meetings.
The key question is really how serious is the EC and the Malaysian government about having free, fair and clean general elections as till today the EC and the government have not adopted many past recommendations made by the Opposition, including the automatic registration of Malaysians as voters upon reaching the age of 21.
I believe that the first step to bring about a free, fair and clean general election in Malaysia is to make the EC a totally independent body that reports directly to the Parliament.