'Phantoms' rock electoral rolls in Penang

Athi Veeranggan | Feb 20, 08

For several years now, the Army Div 2 Base in Georgetown, Penang, has been deserted apart for the presence of a single security guard.
Based on the electoral rolls, however, there are 500 voters registered to the address in Jalan Sultan Ahmad – now just a collection of derelict buildings and overgrown vegetation.
The division has long moved to the new base in Bukit Gendung in the Balik Pulau parliamentary constituency, about 20km away. Even while it was in use, there were no residents – only offices, halls and a mess.
Polls watchdog Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) – accredited as official observers for the first time by the Election Commission (EC) – exposed the discrepancy.
The shocking discovery comes just days before Sunday when the 12th general election kicks off with the nomination process – and after several assurances by the EC that its documentation is in order.
Northern region coordinator BK Ong, who described it a mockery of democracy, has lodged a report with the Anti-Corruption Agency.
“It’s a blow to the EC’s integrity and its (claims that) the electoral roll (is not ambiguous). This is scandalous and compromises the principles of free and fair elections,” he said.
“Many parties have told Mafrel that unfair electoral practices are rampant in Penang. This is clear proof.”
Ong also called for the elimination of the names registered to the army camp, in the interests of sustaining the integrity of the electoral rolls and accountability of the EC.
He urged the public to come forward to expose all such problems, saying Mafrel has received numerous complaints that Penang, a predominantly anti-establishment state, has a large number of ‘phantom’ voters in several opposition-held areas.
The army base, for example, is in the Tanjung parliamentary seat held by Penang DAP chairperson Chow Kon Yeow since 1999 and Padang Kota state constituency held by Gerakan’s three-term incumbent Teng Chang Yeow.
Significantly, the Padang Kota seat has been a stronghold of the Gerakan since it stormed into power in 1969.
Its stranglehold was breached only once when then DAP secretary-general Lim Kit Siang defeated Lim Chong Eu in 1990, subsequently sending the latter into political retirement.
According to the electoral roll as at last December, the Tanjung seat has 53,188 voters, including 1,437 postal votes, while Padang Kota has 577 postal votes.
The other two state seats are Komtar, with 16,976 registered voters (860 postal voters) and Pengkalan Kota with 19,508 voters.
The Election Commission has explained earlier that cases of voters providing the same addresses are because when they don’t have a home address and a common address was used for convenience.