Bersih 2.0 claims voters’ relocation unconstitutional

By G. Manimaran (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — The Election Commission (EC) has been moving voters’ localities since 2004, two years after the last delineation exercise, which polls watchdog Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has described as unconstitutional.
The EC has been conducting the exercise using the electronic geographical information system (EGIS) since 2004, in line with Subsection 7(2) and 7(4) of the Elections Act 1958 and Subsection 25(3) of the Election (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002.
Ambiga, however, said that although the EC may detect mistakes in electoral boundaries, it should not prematurely amend the existing borders of the 222 parliamentary seats in the country.
“Even if the EC finds the mistake in voters’ locality, correction cannot be done until the next delineation exercise which is expected to be conducted after March 2011,” Ambiga told The Malaysian Insider.
The legality of EC’s move has been questioned in blogs and on the Twitter microblogging service, with the process seen as a “mini” delineation.
DAP national vice-chairman M. Kulasegaran also described the move as inappropriate.
The Ipoh Barat MP said the process had resulted in about 2,000 voters being transferred out of his constituency to Batu Gajah, both in Perak.
Adding fuel to fire was the EC’s inability to confirm the number of constituencies affected by the exercise, leading Kulasegaran to believe that something was not right with the process.
“It looks as if the EC has something to hide by relocating voters from one constituency to another in the name correcting localities,” he said.
In Election 2004, Kulasegaran won his seat by 598 votes but the margin was increased to over 15,000 votes four years later.
He claimed that in total, about 200,000 voters have been affected by the process.
“We estimated about 200,000 voters are affected but we are still studying it thoroughly to get the real numbers and the constituencies affected,” he said.
Former Bar Council president Ambiga said relocating localities — which became a major point of contention in the Hulu Selangor by-election in April — was also unconstitutional.
“In my opinion, the process in unconstitutional, [the EC] cannot change electoral boundaries or relocate voters without informing them,” she said.
She added that the matter was also raised in a memorandum submitted to the EC last July.
EC’s meeting with Bersih 2.0 was scheduled for August 27 but it was postponed to after the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations which ended last week, according to the commission’s chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof.
During the Hulu Selangor by-election campaign, PKR election director Fuziah Salleh questioned the fairness of the election process after Pakatan Rakyat (PR) claimed that EC had relocated 228 voters from Kampung Tanjung in the Batang Kali state constituency to the neighbouring federal constituency of Selayang.
Fuziah had then claimed that the transfers were illegal.
However, the EC deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar defended the action adding that it has been the practice since 2004.
“The process has been ongoing since 2004. We found out that in some areas the voters had to vote in a different constituency,” said Wan Ahmad.
“So we took action to correct the localities by transferring the voters to other areas; one of the affected areas was Hulu Selangor,” he said.
He said that prior to the introduction of EGIS in 2004, election boundaries were drawn manually,.
In the latest case, EC relocated voters in the Lapangan Terbang locality from Bukit Bintang to the Cheras parliamentary constituency. The exercise affected about 150 voters.
DAP election committee chairman Tan Kok Wai said the EC had informed the party that the relocation was made in accordance with existing laws.
“Both me and Bukit Bintang MP (DAP’s Fong Kui Lun) accept the process because we think it was conducted with a genuine reason, because of the different addresses of the residents in Lapangan Terbang PPRT,” said Tan.
The Cheras MP said that the discrepancy in the residents’ addresses resulted in some of them being registered as Bukit Bintang voters while some were registered in Cheras despite living in the same apartment building.
“We accept the decision. But we want the EC to be more open and transparent. They should give the voters opportunity to object when they are relocated,” said Tan.
Under the normal delineation process, the EC is required to do a public presentation, to study objections and conduct public hearing.
Tan added that the constituencies of Lembah Pantai and Seputed were also affected by the relocation of voters.
“An apartment in Kampung Muhibah in Lembah Pantai had been transferred into Seputeh. Why only voters from one apartment were transferred? Why not the entire Kampung Muhibah?” he questioned.
Nurul Izzah Anwar, the Lembah Pantai MP, lamented that she was not informed of the transfer.
“As an MP, we should at least be informed in writing,” she said.