Press Statement: 24 May 2012
We refer to the comments made on 17 May 2012 by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin that the Malaysian Government had already agreed to implement 7 out of BERSIH 2.0’s 8 demands. He further stated that by Parliament passing the 22 recommendations tabled by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reform, the Malaysian Government has even gone beyond BERSIH 2.0’s demands. We wish to put the record straight.
BERSIH 2.0’s 8 demands:
1. Clean-up of the electoral roll
The integrity of the electoral is dismal to say the least. Efforts of the Election Commission (EC) in cleaning up the electoral roll, if any, are superficial and have failed to comprehensively address the irregularities and fraud that plague the electoral roll. Instances of electoral fraud are dismissed as clerical errors and one-off mistakes. Even the limited electronic audit conducted by MIMOS has been explained away as an error on the part of MIMOS. In the meantime, the EC continues to move people out of their existing constituencies and place them into new ones, even when their identity card addresses clearly show them to be residing in the former.
2. Use of Indelible Ink
The EC has gazetted rules for the use of indelible ink. But while rules have been made for the use of indelible ink for voters who vote on polling day, there are no rules as to whether advance or postal voters will be similarly marked, and how this will be done. Given that the abuse of advance or postal votes and multiple voting are major concerns, this issue has not been comprehensively addressed. It should also be noted that under the EC’s rules, the indelible ink will be applied as a single line on the finger, rather than the voter’s finger dipped in indelible ink. This will make the marking difficult to see. Also, the marking will take place before a voter votes, rather than after. All this makes the rules for the use of indelible ink very unsatisfactory.
3. Free and Fair Access to the Media
The EC has requested the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture, which controls state-run radio and television channels under Radio Television Malaysia, and the state news agency Bernama, to provide airtime to opposition political parties as well. It is not clear if this request will be granted. The EC should instead have exercised its powers as provided for under Article 115 of the Federal Constitution to compel any public authority to assist the EC.
BERSIH 2.0 welcomes the EC Deputy Chairperson Wan Ahmad Wan Omar’s announcement that it would draft guidelines for the mainstream media to ensure fair coverage for all parties. However, the Deputy Chairperson still fails to understand the real meaning of free and fair access to media. He has asked the opposition political party newspapers to also provide balanced coverage but has not asked party newspapers belonging to the Barisan Nasional parties to do the same. He seems to have assumed, as we have alleged all along, that the mainstream media are already media organs of the ruling coalition.
4. Postal voting
The EC is now acknowledging that Malaysian voters residing overseas should have the right to vote, but has done nothing to expand the categories of such Malaysians entitled to be absentee voters. The EC has also made clear that the campaign period will still be too short for overseas Malaysians to cast their votes, even though it is the EC that decides on the length of the campaign period.
The EC has also refused to implement distance voting for citizens in Malaysia who reside or work in areas far from their voting place. By doing so, the EC is blatantly depriving Malaysian citizens of their constitutional right to vote.
5. Setting a minimum campaign period of 21 days
The EC has stated that it would extend the minimum campaign period to 11 days and not 21 days. 11 days is too short a period to facilitate voting particularly for overseas absentee voters.
6. Strengthening Public Institutions
The situation with respect to this has in fact deteriorated, with the controversy surrounding the membership of UMNO by both the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the EC still unresolved. In addition, there are comments by the Deputy Chairperson of the EC to the effect that he still considers himself a “government servant”, which implies he is still obedient to the will and instructions by government. This is contrary to his position as a member of the EC, which should be independent of government.
This begs the question: If the EC has failed to perform its most basic duty of managing and protecting the integrity of the electoral roll, how can the EC still be entrusted to implement major and crucial reforms for the electoral system? The EC has proven that it is not independent and no longer commands public confidence. The EC must resign immediately and be replaced by new members who command public confidence.
7. Stopping Corruption
There has been no visible effort on the part of the EC and the Malaysian Government to address the issue of vote-buying during elections. Even the PSC in its recommendations failed to address the issue of corruption during elections. Instead what we have seen is continuing largesse being doled out by the government in the form of dividends and bonuses, promises of flotation on the share market of government-owned companies and assets, financial aid, pay rises and job promotions.
8. Stopping Dirty Politics
In addition to repeated instances of political corruption, politics in Malaysia has grown increasingly dirty in recent times. There have been increased incidences of personal slandering, distortion of issues and spreading of rumours and lies. The most recent example of this is the politically-motivated prosecution of participants at the recent BERSIH 3.0 assembly. Regrettably, even government officials including ministers and members of the EC have taken part in such deeds.
Contrary to implementing BERSIH 2.0’s demands, the electoral system appears to be worsening by the day. BERSIH 2.0 stands by its position that the 8 demands must be implemented before the 13th General Elections. To date, the Election Commission (EC) has implemented only one of BERSIH 2.0’s demands which is the use of indelible ink during polling, and then only partially.
The Deputy Prime Minister should stop making false claims and deceiving the people of this country. It is bad enough that the Malaysian Government has failed to implement any substantial and meaning electoral reforms, but it is even worse to deceive the citizens to whom the Government is accountable.
BERSIH 2.0 demands that the Malaysian Government takes immediate steps to restore the integrity of the electoral system and to implement our 8 demands immediately! The 13th General Elections will not be clean, free and fair unless all reforms proposed by BERSIH 2.0, including reforms related to constituency redelineation, are implemented.
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (BERSIH 2.0)
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0 comprises:
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Co-Chairperson), Datuk A. Samad Said (Co-Chairperson), Ahmad Shukri Abdul Razab, Andrew Ambrose, Andrew Khoo, Anne Lasimbang, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Awang Abdillah, Dr Farouk Musa, Hishamuddin Rais, Liau Kok Fah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Matthew Vincent, Niloh Ason, Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh and Zaid Kamaruddin.