It was only a suggestion, says PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet had merely suggested to the Election Commission (EC) to not use the indelible ink for the general election. It was not a directive, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The Prime Minister disclosed that a week before Parliament was dissolved, the Cabinet had made the suggestion, giving its reasons why it did not want the ink to be used.
“We had received information that some quarters had bought the ink although they had no authority to do so and we were suspicious that it could be used to cause confusion and complications during the voting process,” he told reporters yesterday after delivering his closing remarks at the end of the 11th MSC Malaysia International Advisory Panel Meeting.
Abdullah said the Cabinet believed that the election process would go on smoothly and all eligible voters could cast their votes if the indelible ink was not used.
“It was only a suggestion we made to the EC chairman. It was up to him to think it over and agree or to proceed with the original decision to use the ink,” he said.
When the decision to scrap the ink was announced at the eleventh hour of the general election, Barisan Nasional leaders, including Abdullah, had said that they wanted an explanation from the EC on why it was doing away with the indelible ink.
On why the Government did not come clean on the indelible ink in the first place, Abdullah said that if anything tainted the voting process it would be the Government that would be blamed.
Earlier, EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the Cabinet decided not to approve the proposal to use indelible ink “on the day of Parliament dissolution, on Feb 13”.
“They did not approve because of two very strong reasons, and I agreed with them over those reasons.
“One was security and the other was law, relating to Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, which states that it is the fundamental right of a person to vote,” he told the press after opening the National Seminar on Elections 2008: Democracy at Work here yesterday.
Asked if he tried to convince the Cabinet otherwise, Abdul Rashid said “he could not” , adding: “But I took responsibility for it.”
“I was told that the Cabinet had been briefed about an attempt by PAS, that they had bought some ink from Thailand, and were going around to mark old voters. And when Umno came to know, they also went and bought the ink. This was given to me in black and white by the police,” he said.
On May 6, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said in a Parliament reply to DAP’s Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan that police did not find evidence of smuggled indelible ink and statements made by complainants and witnesses were rumours.
Meanwhile, the Opposition said the revelation that it was the Cabinet that did not approve the use of the indelible ink was the “best proof” that the EC was not independent or neutral.
DAP national adviser Lim Kit Siang said it was unacceptable for the Cabinet to have made such a decision and that it went against the spirit of the Constitution of having an independent EC.
PAS research centre director Dr Dzulkifly Ahmad, said: “This is shocking. With this revelation, we come to realise the reasons and rationale why the indelible ink was withdrawn at the eleventh hour. His remark vindicates our claim all along that this is the underpinning reasons. The jigsaw puzzle is now complete.”
Transparency International Malaysia president Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said he was not only surprised but confused by the conflicting statements.