Cabinet only 'suggested' scrapping use of ink in polls

NST: 18 May 2008
KUALA LUMPUR: The decision to scrap the use of indelible ink during the March 8 general election was only a suggestion and not a directive from the cabinet. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that while the matter was discussed by the cabinet, no order was given to the Election Commission to drop an earlier plan to use the ink.
“It was not a directive. The cabinet only gave its views to the EC, and the EC was the one which made the final decision,” Abdullah said after chairing the 11th Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor International Advisory Panel meeting here.
He was responding to reports quoting EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman as saying that the cabinet had rejected the use of indelible ink on the day Parliament was dissolved.
Bernama quoted Abdul Rashid as saying: “If there is anything that we can do to assure the people that the electoral process is transparent, then we should do it.
“We had agreed on the indelible ink.”
Rashid said this at a press conference after launching the national seminar on “Election 2008: Democracy at Work” at the International Islamic University Malaysia yesterday.
He added: “The cabinet did not approve (nor) reject. They did not approve because of two strong reasons and I agreed with them over those reasons.
“The first, because of security, the other is the law.
“Article 119, which is the fundamental right of a person to vote, states that even if voters refused to be stamped with indelible ink on their finger, the ballot paper must still be given to them.”
The EC had agreed to use the ink last year but the plan was cancelled four days before election day.
Abdullah said the authorities had received information a week before the polls that certain parties had bought the same type of ink.
This was despite them not having the authority to do so, he added.
He said the cabinet had suspicions that the ink could have been used to confuse voters.
“If it was true they had bought the ink, what did they need it for?
“Maybe they wanted to use it, and if true, how?
“The cabinet was left with a tough decision on whether to make these possibilities known to the EC.”
Abdullah, who said everything went well (in the election) and that everyone had accepted the results, questioned why the matter was being turned into an issue.
“It’s not as if by not using the ink, the whole (election) process would have been nullified.”
He said he hoped the media would drop the issue as the elections were over.