Reporters complained to EC of mistreatment at Sarawak polling centres

By Desmond Davidson (NST)
02 March, 2008
The media conference here today morning was for state election commission director Takun Sangguh to brief highlights of Sunday’s nomination in Sarawak but instead, reporters used it to air grievances over the treatment they received from confused policemen and polling officers at two nomination centres here.
Journalists covering the nominations of the Kota Samarahan constituency at the Kota Samarahan Dewan Suarah and the Petra Jaya constituency at SMK Petra Jaya told Takun they were barred from entering the centre by policemen manning the entrance gate.
When they protested and showed the policemen they had the required passes issued by the EC, the policemen still refused to give entry. The policemen even told them they had instructions from the EC to only allow candidates, their seconder and proposer, the reporters said.
The 20-odd reporters at the centre were finally allowed in when the BN candidate and entourage arrived. But as the reporters were squeezing through the small opening to follow Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib file his nomination papers, some policemen tried to shut the gate behind Sulaiman, resulting in some reporters being hit by the steel gate and suffered lacerations.
In Petra Jaya, reporters were also barred from entering the nomination centre on new instructions from the EC. A Borneo Post reporter Zora Chan, even had her EC issued election passes confiscated by Kuching North City Hall officers assigned the security detail there.
“The officer told me that if I want the passes back, I would have to call the EC first and then get the passes at the DBKU office,” the veteran reporter who had covered several elections told Takun.
Reporters were similarly refused entry into the nomination centre for the Lubok Antu constituency at the small Lubok Antu district office.
Policemen on duty told them that their instruction was not to allow journalists in and the passes they carried were “invalid”.
The nomination process was also not properly carried out as members of the public were not given the opportunity to scrutinise the papers on public display during the one hour objection period.
“They could not cross the police line and the few that did were chased away,” one reporter complained.
Takun said he would note the complaints and act on it before polling. “I am not aware of what actually happened so I would not make comments just yet. Another agency (the police) is in charge of security at these centre and I will just have to sort these things with them.
“I don’t know what their instructions to their men are and why these few centre are having these problem and not the rest. It’ll be sorted out,” Takun said.
Meanwhile, Takun said the absence of polling in four constituencies saved the Election Commission RM500,000, which included paying allowances of polling officers and cost of transporting these officers to the polling stations.
For example, two polling stations in Selangau constituency are so remote that helicopters were required to ferry polling officers to the counting centres. The four areas, which saw the BN winning uncontested, are the new constituency of Tanjung Manis, Kanowit, Selangau and Kapit.