BERSIH 2.0 is disappointed at the on-going display of arrogance by the ministers of our country in negotiating the terms of reference and composition of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reform. We remind the leaders of the nation that as representatives elected by citizens of Malaysia, they should humbly listen to the voices of the people and act as the people wills them.
Clean, free and fair election is the foundation of a democratic country. At any point when electoral processes are disputed, a probe must be launched and considerable efforts taken to improve the electoral system. As such, it is of utmost importance that the formation of the proposed PSC must be structured to ensure highest standard of scrutiny of the electoral system.
Therefore, BERSIH 2.0 further recommends the following in relation to the PSC:
1. The Chairperson of the PSC should be a member of Opposition parties
The intention behind this recommendation is to ensure genuine check and balance. The function of the PSC is to cross-examine the electoral system as administered by the government of the day. Therefore, it is vital that the PSC is duly empowered to uphold the principle of separation of powers. The Cabinet’s decision to appoint a cabinet minister to chair the Committee is an indication that the Cabinet fails to understand the principle of separation of powers.
2. The PSC should engage experts as resource persons
Engaging selected experts in electoral systems as resource persons would ensure the PSC’s findings to be comprehensive and appropriate recommendations are being put forward to ensure free and fair elections.
3. The PSC must practice the highest degree of transparency possible in exercising its duties
As electoral reform is an issue with high public interest, it is crucial that the PSC operates with the highest degree of transparency possible while ensuring compliance to Standing Order 85 which prohibits evidence and documents presented to the PSC to be published before the Committee presents its report to Parliament.
BERSIH 2.0 recommends that the final reports of the PSC be made publicly available for scrutiny prior to their presentation to the Cabinet and Parliament.
4. The PSC should conduct nationwide public hearings
The PSC must seek to conduct nationwide public hearings to collect as widely as possible evidence and testimonies of electoral violations and issues from civil society and the general public.
5. The PSC should be given leave to sit while Parliament is in session
Considering that there are issues of electoral reform that needs to be addressed before the next General Elections, Parliament should exercise its powers under Standing Order 83(6) to give leave to the PSC to sit while Parliament is in session.
BERSIH 2.0 is also mindful of the inadequacies of a PSC in comparison to a Royal Commission of Inquiry.
We, therefore, note with disappointment the announcement made by Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak who said that general elections can be held “anytime” and will not depend on the proceedings of the parliamentary select committee on electoral reform. This totally defeats the purpose and spirit of setting up the PSC as it is meant to resolve serious fraudulent practices in the electoral processes. The PSC would be pointless if Parliament is dissolved before the Committee presents its report to Parliament.
BERSIH 2.0 strongly reiterates its demand that the government does not hold any elections until and unless the recommendations from the PSC relating to immediate reforms such as a clean-up of the electoral roll, use of indelible ink, automatic registration of voters, reform of absentee voting and minimum 21 days campaign period are implemented.
BERSIH 2.0 maintains our call for the formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry on Electoral Reforms to study the larger issues of elections and democracy such as electoral system, a full review of all electoral laws and the membership of the Election Commission.
Armed Forces Must Maintain Neutrality
On another note, BERSIH 2.0 is shocked by the reaction from the Chief of Armed Forces, General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin who had strongly criticised those who raised issues regarding electoral fraud.
In a press conference held on 18 August 2011, four former army officers – Major (Rtd) Risman Mastor, Kamarulzaman Ibrahim, Mohamed Nasir Ahmad and Mohd Kamil Omar – had said they had marked thousands of postal votes in three separate general elections between 1978 and 1999. The allegations made by these four officers should not be viewed as a threat to the army or to any other institutions but as an expression of concern with the electoral process which they claimed to be flawed.
The ethical response from General Zulkifeli should be to show cause and offer explanations that these allegations were baseless if indeed they were. Instead he chose to issue a stern warning which tantamount to a threat to the security and safety of citizens.
BERSIH 2.0 strongly urges General Zulkifeli and other public administrators like the police, to be mindful of their role and responsibilities and the need to uphold transparency, accountability and neutrality in political and governance matters, such as electoral reforms. They as public servants should refrain from making partisan statements.
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0)
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0 comprises:
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Chairperson), Andrew Khoo, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Dr Farouk Musa, Liau Kok Fah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh and Zaid Kamaruddin.