NST: 4 March 2008
For security reasons and legal implications, indelible ink will not be used on polling day this Sunday. The Election Commission today decided not to proceed with its proposal to introduce the ink as the election process and public order and security could not be compromised.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the commission was obliged to make this firm and final decision in fulfilling its duties and discharging its responsibilities.
Relevant laws, including the Election Offences Act 1954, had to be amended if the ink is to be used, he told a packed Press conference at the EC headquarters. Also present were Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan and EC secretary Datuk Kamaruzaman Mohd Noor.
The EC, Rashid said, had agreed in principle to use the ink to mark the fingernail of a voter before a ballot paper is issued.
“According to our original proposal, a person whose fingernail has been marked with indelible ink shall not be issued with a ballot paper.”
He cited Article 119 of the Federal Constitution that guaranteed the right of a registered voter to vote. “This means he cannot be denied the right to vote unless he is disqualified to vote under the law.
“Laws providing otherwise shall be ultra vires the Federal Constitution. This means a person whose fingernail has been marked with the ink or a person who refuses to have his fingernail marked cannot be denied the right to be issued with a ballot paper,” Rashid said.
“The provision of law that needs to be drafted, if the use of indelible ink is to be introduced, cannot affect the right of a voter to vote. Hence, the law to be drafted must make a provision to allow a voter whose fingernail appears to have been marked with indelible ink and a voter who refused to have his fingernail marked, to be issued with a ballot paper. Such a provision of the law will not serve the EC’s original intention in introducing the use of the ink.”
From the practical point of view, Rashid said the issuance of a ballot paper to such a voter would render the EC’s proposal, meaningless, and will not bring about a positive result. In fact, it had potential to create misunderstandings, altercations and arguments at polling stations.
Rashid said police reports also prompted the review of its proposal. “Results of investigations on the reports made to the police confirmed that certain irresponsible quarters had bought the ink from abroad.”
Rashid said the EC would be writing to the government and political parties about its decision.
“There was no pressure from any political parties that led to the EC’s decision,” he said. “We just cannot go against the constitution. Initially, the government also supported the use of the ink if this could further convince the people of a fair and smooth election. We thought we could just introduce it without realising it requires amendment to the law. I hope all parties will accept the decision with an open mind and not politicise it.”
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NST: 4 March 2008