Election Commission – explain strange/extraordinary behaviour, reinforcing public suspicions about its independence, professionalism and integrity

At its meeting with political parties today, the Election Commission should explain its recent strange and extraordinary behaviour which only reinforce public suspicions about its independence, professionalism and integrity.

The Election Commission is acting more and more as a mouthpiece and appendage of the Barisan Nasional government instead of being a non-partisan, professional and independent Election Commission as mandated by the Constitution to conduct free, fair and clean elections to give meaning to the system of parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.
For instance, the Election Commission should explain its strange and unprecedented behaviour in not announcing the nomination and polling dates for the Penanti by-election although the Election Commission met on the matter yesterday.
In my 43 years of political and electoral experience, I have not come across another instance where the Election Commission failed to announce the dates for general election or by-election on the very same day after it had held a special meeting on it.
This was also the case with the five by-elections held after the March general election last year.
The nomination and polling dates for Permating Pauh by-election were announced on August 6, 2008, those of Kuala Terengganu by-election on Dec. 5, 2008, Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau on 13th February and Batang Ai on March 4 – all immediately on the same day after the Election Commission had a meeting on the filling of the vacancies.
Secondly, the Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusuf had announced last week that the Election Commission would meet yesterday on the Penanti by-election and would announce its decision tomorrow.
Why has this announcement been suddenly put off to Monday?
Is the Election Commission waiting for a signal from the Umno Supreme Council meeting tomorrow night on how to handle the Penanti by-election issue, as the Prime Minister and Umno President, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has indicated unwillingness for Umno and Barisan to contest in view of the losing streak of Barisan Nasional and Umno in by-elections after last year’s political tsunami?
There has been speculation that attempts would be made by Umno quarters to persuade former Penanti State Assemblyman Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin to repudiate his resignation letter to avoid having to hold a by-election.
Whether such speculation is true or otherwise, why is the Election Commission acting in so strange and suspicious a manner as to give fodder to public perceptions about its lack of independence, professionalism and integrity?
Recently, both the Chairman and his deputy, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar had been joining the chorus of Barisan Nasional leaders in talking about “unnecessary by-elections”.
The Election Commission should explain to political parties today what it understands by “unnecessary” by-elections.
Is the Election Commission seriously suggesting that apart from cases of death, disqualification of the Member of Parliament or State Assembly member because of bankruptcy, unsound mind, criminal conviction or acquisition of foreign citizenship, all resignations by elected representative will cause “unnecessary by-elections” and should be barred such as fines amounting to RM100,000 or above?
The Election Commission should be mindful that it is straying into areas which is none of its business, as it is specifically mandated by the Constitution to conduct free, fair and clean elections which it has failed to do so far.
However, if Election Commission wants to be a “moral guardian” of elected representatives, why is the Election Commission exercising double standards by closing its eyes and condoning the defection of the three “political frogs” in Perak, viz. Perak Assembly members, Jelapang assemblywoman Hee Yit Foong, Behrang assemblyman Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi and Changkat Jering assemblyman Mohd Osman Mohd Jail who dared not appear publicly or return to their constituencies for close to three months because of their betrayal of the trust of the electorate?
Can the Election Commission also explain whether it regards as “unnecessary by-election” if:
1. The Barisan Nasional MP for Kulai, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting wants to resign because he has lost “heart” and interest to continue as the MP for the area after the MCA’s thrashing in the March general election political tsunami last year, so that the people of Kulai can decide who should be their new MP who could do full justice as their MP? Or
2. If one of the 18 disaffected Umno State Assemblyman in Terengganu wants to resign to force the resignation of the Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said?
Finally, let the Election Commission explain to political parties whether it is aware that it is treading on the constitutional rights of MPs and Assemblymen to resign and any attempt to bar such resignation will require a constitutional amendment in view of Article 51 of the Constitution giving a Member of Parliament unfettered rights to submit his or her resignation.
The Election Commission should be aware that its political masters, the Barisan Nasional, does not have the requisite two-thirds majority in Parliament to amend the Constitution at its whim and fancy.
There are more important and pertinent issues for the Election Commission to give top priority – firstly, to revamp election laws and electoral system to ensure we have a truly clean, free and fair electoral system and secondly, restore public confidence in the independence, professionalism and integrity of the Election Commission and that it is not just at the beck and call of the Barisan Nasional government!