Press Release: Two wrongs don't make a right

BERSIH opposes attempts by the Election Commission (EC) to amend the Elections (Conduct of Election) Regulation 1981 to give the Commission a free hand to extend polling time as and when it sees fit.

In an exclusive interview with Oriental Daily published on Saturday, 21 July 2007, EC Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said that the Commission was amending the Elections (Conduct of Election) Regulation to empower it to extend polling time at its own discretion. According to Tan Sri Rashid, the move has been sanctioned by Cabinet and will be presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for royal assent.
BERSIH views this as an attempt to cover up the EC’s huge blunder in Selangor during the 2004 General Election, and calls for those responsible for that debacle — which resulted in confusion for 223,950 voters — to be held accountable for their mismanagement.
BERSIH opposes the move on the grounds that any arbitrary extension of polling hours is unfair to voters who are unaware about the move, and argues that administratively, it opens the floodgates for abuse of the system.
In the Selangor Debacle in the 2004 General Election, thousands of voters could not locate their names on the electoral roll and lost their right to vote. In the Election Commission Report on the 2004 General Elections (pg 135), the Commission admitted that, “During the election, instances of confusion were recorded from several polling centres in the Klang Valley, Selangor particularly in the early hours of polling. This was due to difficulties faced by election workers in checking the names of voters in the electoral roll before voting.
This confusion was the result of the decision made by the State Director of Elections, Selangor to open new polling centres in 16 polling districts in the Klang Valley. … With this action [opening new polling centres], problems in the splitting of the Electoral Roll surfaced and voters had difficulties in finding their names in the split Electoral Rolls.”
As a result, according to the Report (pg. 135-6), “the Election Commission received feedback from various Returning Officers that there was congestion at several polling centres in Selangor. Based on reports from Returning Officers, many voters could not easily identify their polling centres and therefore might lose their opportunity to vote. To enable the affected voters to cast their vote in the afternoon, ECM decided to extend polling by two hours throughout Selangor.” (EC Report 2004 Pg. 135-6)
[Malay version] [Pg. 62: Kekecohan di Selangor]
[Kekecohan yang belaku di 60 pusat mengundi di kawasan Lembah Kelang, Selangor di sepanjang pagi hari mengundi adalah disebabkan berlaku kelemahan petugas-petugas yang menyemak buku daftar pemilih sebelum pengudian. Ia berlaku disebabkan tindakan Pengarah Pilihan Raya Negeri Selangor membuka 60 buah pusat mengundi baru di dalam 16 daerah mengundi khususnya di dalam kawasan Lembah Kelang. Keputusan yang dibuat secara bersendirian selepas pembubaran Parlimen dan Dewan Undangan Negeri nyata telah menyumbang kepada kekecohan yang berlaku di kawasan-kawasan yang terbabit.]
[Malay version] [Pg. 63: Penambahan Masa 2 Jam bagi Negeri Selangor]
[SPR telah menerima maklumbalas daripada Pegawai-Pegawai Pengurus dan orang ramai berhubungan dengan kesesakan di sesetengah pusat mengundi di Selangor akibat masalah yang diterangkan di para awal. Daripada laporan oleh Pegawai-Pegawai Pengurus yang terlibat di pusat mengundi di mana berlakunya kekecohan, beribu-ribu pemilih didapati tidak dapat mengesan pusat mengundi mereka dan dikira telah terlepas peluang untuk mengundi. Bagi tujuan memberikan peluang kepada pengundi-pengundi berkenaan membuang undi pada sebelah petang, SPR mendapati wajar tempoh masa pengundian bagi seluruh Negeri Selangor dilanjukan selama 2 jam lagi.]
BERSIH wishes to point out that any alteration of electoral rolls after the dissolution of the Parliament and Legislative Assemblies was in fact illegal. Regulation 14A of the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981 stipulates that “the wlectoral rolls which are submitted to the candidates on the day of nomination shall be the authoritative texts of the electoral rolls which will be used by the returning officer and the presiding officer of a polling station on polling day.”
Regulation 26(5) of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations also makes clear that “No alteration or change pursuant to [these] Regulations shall be made to the principal electoral roll or the supplementary electoral roll for a registration area during the period beginning on the day of –
(a) the dissolution of Parliament or any State Legislative Assembly;
(b) the establishment of a casual vacancy by the Election Commission; or
(c) the notification of such casual vacancy by the Speaker of the House of Representatives or any State Legislative Assembly, as the case may be, to the Election Commission, and ending on the day of the completion of the election.”
BERSIH demands that the EC reveal the actions taken so far against the officials responsible for the debacle, as the EC itself had placed the blame squarely on the then State Director of Elections for Selangor.
Malaysians, in particular Selangor voters, deserve an answer from the EC whether any action has been taken against the State Director of Elections for Selangor, and further, against his immediate superior, namely the then EC Secretary and current Deputy Chairman of the EC, Datuk Haji Wan Ahmad Wan Omar.
BERSIH finds it incomprehensible and completely unacceptable that the officials responsible for such an unprecedented electoral mess get away scot-free and have not taken full responsibility for their reckless actions.