It's ink in the face for EC

NST: 6 March, 2008
PUTRAJAYA: The Election Commission yesterday came under fire from most political parties for its decision not to use indelible ink to prevent multiple voting this general election. Leading the chorus of disgruntlement was Barisan Nasional chairman Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Other BN component parties were also dismayed by the decision.
“The MCA would like to ask why the EC didn’t study this matter and resolve the issue earlier.
“Why cancel the usage of indelible ink at the last minute?” MCA election operations chief Tan Sri Wong See Wah asked.
Wong said the 11th hour decision would be politicised by opposition parties.
“We hope that voters are clear on this matter and will not buy into the opposition’s propaganda on the issue.”
MCA also expressed outrage that certain groups were involved in smuggling in the indelible ink with the intention of creating chaos on polling day.
The EC also drew flak from Gerakan. “It might affect the perception of voters about the EC,” said acting party president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.
MIC, however, said it was relieved that the EC made the move.
“We are happy that the EC has succeeded in halting the attempt of such irresponsible groups from undermining the voting process and stopping Malaysians from exercising their democratic right to vote,” party president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said.
Pas leaders in Kelantan reacted with anger and disbelief to the news, describing it as an “anti-democratic move”.
Although there are many safeguards already in place – such as identification by identity card and striking off the name once a person has collected the ballot paper – Pas spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat predictably accused the commission of backing certain parties to allow their supporters to vote more than once.
DAP national chairman Karpal Singh suggested that the EC use the indelible ink in states where there had been no reports of plans to sabotage the electoral process.
Karpal argued that as the police had said only three states – Kedah, Perlis and Kelantan – were involved, the ink could still be used in other states.
Meanwhile, Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharom urged political parties and their supporters to accept the decision and to keep calm.
“I believe the commission has made the right decision to avoid any untoward incident,” he said.
Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad also weighed in, saying that the use of the ink could have caused problems as it was in breach of Article 119 of the Federal Constitution.
He said the legal implication was an even stronger reason than possible fraud to not use the ink.
Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail had said on Tuesday that amendments would have to be made before the ink could be used.
In another development, some members of election watchdog Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) are pulling out in protest of the decision not to use the ink.
Its chairman Abd Malek Hussin, who had a meeting with commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Rahman yesterday, said its 333 EC-accredited observers would still carry out observations from outside the polling station.
With accreditation, the observers are allowed to monitor the balloting process inside polling stations.
“We don’t just want to object but we are also prepared to give up the opportunity in order to make a point,” deputy chairman Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh said.