Saturday, May 14, 2016

How serious is the Malaysian Election Commission in bringing about free, fair and clean elections?

Press Statement by M Kula Segaran, MP for Ipoh Barat and DAP National Vice Chairman in Ipoh on 14th May, 2016

How serious is the Malaysian Election Commission in bringing about free, fair and clean elections?





Polling for the Tamil Nadu (India) state election will be held on Mayth 16. The state election involves a total 234 constituencies and over over 70 million eligible voters.

YB A. Sivanesan, YB Kesawan, Segaran (DAP Ipoh Barat Chairman), VK Vembarasan (DAP Klang), Sdr. Rajalingam and Mohd. Arafat (PKR Tambun chief) and I have arrived in Chennai on May 6 to witness the election.

We toured the many areas in the state for the next 5 days to get an insight of the election without any assistance from the relevant authority. On May 12th and 13th, we were given briefings by the State Election Commissioner and his subordinates.

Thereafter we attended a 2 days briefing on the do’s and don’ts of the General State Elections at the Election Commissioner’s office of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The head of Election Commission,mr. Chandran Mohan and others briefed us and took questions from us.

Among the matters we were told were:-

1) A parliamentary candidate can spend up to 28lakhs.  (A Malaysian candidate contesting state elections can expend to the limit of RM170k). Each candidate MUST open a current account and monies in and out including donations must be reflected.

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.

3 (b) any person residing in the constituency can register as a voter if he has reached the age of 18 years old. On line registration is allowed. We are given to understand that presently nearly 90 % of eligible voters have registered as voters.
3(c) whenever a person applies to be registered as a voter, the election commission will send an officer (a municipal clerk) to verify this by going to the applicants address and confirm same. One MUST be resident in a particular constituency for 6 months to be eligible to register as a voter.

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.

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.

6) IT technology is used to the maximum. Every election acts like speeches etc are all videotaped. Even the TV announcements were scrutinised by the election officers to ensure no violation of the rules takes place

7) for the first time the Election Commission has introduced a team of investigators known as "flying squad". The team is headed by a local magistrate and comprised of federal and local police, income tax officers and women officers to stop and randomly check vehicles if monies or gift are being transported which might violate election rules.

Our own bus was stopped 3 times and videos were done on what we were taking in the bus. Questions were asked where and what we were doing etc and amount of monies being taken.

8) 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.

9) independent observers are appointed to oversee the police, media and the election officers. These observers are from different parts of the country and they give updates and reports to the election offices on the effectiveness of the electoral activities plus suggestions and criticisms. The observer role we notice is very much the role played by BERSIH in Malaysia. Except present is an NGO with no cooperation from the EC. This role of observer needs to be incorporated in our electoral system.

During our tour, 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.


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