Malaysian government not to act against poll body chief

June 25th, 2008
Kuala Lumpur, June 25 (IANS) – The Malaysian government has sought to end a controversy on the decision not to use indelible ink imported from India during the March general election that the opposition parties have alleged helped the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN). Parliament was informed Tuesday that nO action will be taken against Election Commission chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman for saying it was the cabinet that called off the usage of indelible ink.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Nazri Aziz said this was because “the government respected the commission as an independent body”, The Star said Wednesday.
“If there are differences with the commission, the government will explain our stand,” the minister said in a written reply on behalf of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The Chief Election Commissioner told a seminar May 17 that he deferred using indelible ink, 45,000 bottles of which were imported from India, after “a cabinet decision”.
Abdul Rashid said he was “forced to take the rap” for the decision which attracted accusations from political parties, and NGOs and also fell victim to vandals who splashed paint on his house.
The government has said the cabinet discussed it, but it had only cautioned about the likely misuse and cheating during the polling.
“However, the government really hopes that the EC would distance itself from making possibly confusing statements, for the sake of the commission’s credibility and the integrity of the democratic process and election itself,” The Sun newspaper quoted the minister as saying.
The minister said the cabinet has never instructed Abdul Rashid to cancel the usage of the ink but has said it did not support the move because it could be unconstitutional according to Article 199 of the federal constitution.
The minister said as a competent and independent authority, the EC has been entrusted with the responsibility to decide whether to use the indelible ink or not, after taking into consideration the cabinet’s suggestion.
Badawi and the BN emerged victorious, but weakened in the March election when the opposition for the first time emerged with 82 seats in parliament and control of four states.