IGP: Four reports on smuggled ink

NST: 5 March 2008
PUTRAJAYA: Indelible ink will not be used on polling day as the security of this method of preventing multiple voting has been breached, Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said yesterday.
It is understood that Abdul Rashid has called all political parties participating in the general election for a meeting later today to explain the surprise decision, just four days before the polls.
In Kota Baru, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he would ask the EC for a full explanation.
“I want to hear more on this from the EC,” he said.
Abdullah said the most important consideration was that people must not be prevented from exercising their right to vote.
“The right of those who have registered to vote must be protected, and this is the guarantee that must be given by the EC,” he said.
At the same packed press conference in Putrajaya, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said four people had lodged reports – two in Perlis and one each in Kelantan and Kedah – claiming that certain individuals had smuggled in the ink from neighbouring countries to be used on polling day.
Musa said police had recorded statements from four individuals – aged between 33 and 40 – who were said to have imported the ink.
Following the reports, which were lodged between Feb 16 and Feb 21, police informed the EC of the possibility that there would be attempts at fraud during the March 8 polls.
Both the EC and police fear there could be attempts to use the ink to prevent unsuspecting voters, particularly from the rural areas, from voting on Saturday.
“We believe they planned to go to the villages and apply the ink on the fingernails of unsuspecting people, who would then be ineligible to vote.
“This will cause chaos at polling stations.”
The EC had announced that voters who had the ink on their fingernails would not be allowed to vote.
Musa said police had recorded statements from the four suspects. He could not say if they were members of any political party.
Abdul Rashid said besides the breach in security, the EC also decided not to use the ink because of its legal implications.
He said that laws, including the Election Offences Act 1954, had to be amended before the ink could be used without being challenged by voters.
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. 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.”
As such, he said, there could be arguments and confusion at polling stations, or worse.
Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail, who was at the press conference, said amendments would have to be made before the ink could be used.
Abdul Rashid said the EC was not pressured by anyone to make the decision.
“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 free and fair election.
“We thought we could just introduce it without realising it requires amendments to the law. I hope all parties will accept the decision with an open mind and not politicise it.”
In an immediate response, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng slammed the commission over its decision.