Here's another M'sian 'record'

Fauwaz Abdul Aziz | Dec 18, 07 5:26pm

Malaysia could well enter some obscure record book for rushing through constitutional amendments, the latest of which was on Dec 11 to extend the tenure of the Election Commission (EC) head by a year to the age limit of 66.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) – comprising 67 NGOs and five political parties – has strongly objected to current EC chief Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman being retained in his post. He turns 65 on Dec 31.
Bersih spokesperson Dzulkifli Ahmad (photo), who also heads the PAS research centre, said the coalition is not against the constitution being amended, but is concerned by the number of times and speed with which such moves have been bulldozed into law.
Malaysia has seen more than 40 constitutional amendments since its independence 50 years ago. If calculated in terms of changes to individual clauses, there have been more than 650 ‘single amendments’ to the document, said Dzulkifli.
Comparatively, Singapore – with a similar history to Malaysia – has brought in only four amendments, while the US has amended its constitution just 27 times over the 230 years of its existence.
“This clearly shows the arrogance and impunity with which the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration has arbitrarily used its two-thirds majority to tarnish the sanctity of the laws and the rule of law,” said Dzulkifli.
Similar figures were reported about two years ago by constitutional expert Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi.
Dzulkifli was speaking at a press conference before a Bersih delegation submitted a protest memorandum to the office of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Putrajaya, on the amendment to Article 114 of the Federal Constitution.
Bersih alleges that the amendment was to ensure that Abdul Rashid can spearhead the commission into the next general election, speculated to be held early next year although the BN mandate only expires in April 2009.
Litany of sins
In the memorandum – submitted to the premier’s political secretary Wan Farid Wan Salleh – Bersih cited allegations of electoral fraud in previous general elections and by-elections which Abdul Rashid has allegedly failed to tackle.
They also claimed that Abdul Rashid had issued contradictory statements relating to the need for electoral reform, and criticised him for being biased towards the BN.
Dzulkifli said Abdul Rashid failed to fairly and properly administer the 2004 general election and the by-elections in Batu Talam, Machap and Ijok.
Apart from allegedly failing to clean up the electoral rolls, the EC head is also accused of not addressing the “gross abuse of public resources” by BN component parties.
“As we have seen, there have hardly been free, fair and independent elections,” claimed Dzulkilfli.
Dzulkifli said Abdul Rashid’s tenure should not be extended as the people have had enough of him as EC chairperson.
“Enough is enough. He has got to go. We don’t mind the extension of the EC chairperson to 66 or even beyond 66 years, but not for this particular guy (who) is against the entire institution of democracy and democratic credentials,” said Dzulkifli.
Speaking to reporters after the submitting the memorandum, another Bersih leader – PKR vice-president R Sivarasa – warned of another show of public disapproval on the scale of the coalition’s Nov 10 rally if Abdullah fails to heed the wishes of the people.
“If the prime minister is insistent on extending the services of someone who we consider primarily responsible for corruption and unfair and unclean practices in elections, then he is inviting a response from the rakyat,” said Sivarasa.
“(As for) The exact form of that response, well, we will wait and see.”
Bersih leader Zuraidah Kamaruddin took up the same line and warned of what is to come if the coalition’s objections are ignored.
“If our voices are not heard now, then they will be heard when the people take up a different form of democracy,” said the PKR women’s wing leader.
On Dec 11, Bersih members managed to get past a police cordon around Parliament House to submit its protest memorandum to opposition parliamentarians. Seventeen were arrested and released on police bail.