Press Statement, 22 January 2013
Sabah RCI: EC and Government Must Respond to Allegations
BERSIH 2.0 is shocked by recent allegations made before the Sabah Royal Commission of Inquiry. Testimonies by former government officials alleged that the National Registration Department and the Election Commission were complicit in awarding citizenship and identification documents to thousands of non-Malaysians without proper process. These “new citizens” were then allegedly planted in constituencies across the state to boost the number of “Muslim voters.”
We recognise that the RCI proceedings are ongoing. However, BERSIH 2.0 calls on the Election Commission to immediately respond to the public and the RCI on the allegations brought up before the commission. The severity of the allegations undermine an already low public confidence in the electoral system and may impair the EC’s ability to conduct elections.
We call on the EC to respond by:
- Cleaning the electoral roll. While the RCI has yet to reach its conclusion, this is not the first time that allegations have been made on irregularities in Sabah’s electoral rolls. In 2001, former chief minister Yong Teck Lee vacated his Likas state seat after a Kota Kinabalu High Court judge ruled that constituency’s electoral roll was illegal, after evidence of “phantom voters” and non-citizens on the roll was presented in court. The Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (MERAP), headed by Dr Ong Kian Ming, last year found that the problems in Sabah’s electoral rolls persist more than a decade after the Likas case.Given the serious and sustained nature of the allegations, the EC should immediately take steps to clean the electoral rolls.
- Conducting a thorough and transparent investigation into the allegations. BERSIH 2.0 notes that the RCI is not empowered to identify those responsible for allegedly awarding citizenships to foreigners, recommend any punishment for the culprits or determine the reasons behind the award. Furthermore, its scope is limited to Sabah.The EC therefore must work with the government to ensure that its ranks are free from individuals connected with the alleged unlawful awarding of citizenships and identification documents. Those responsible must be made accountable for their actions.
The implications of the allegations are staggering. If true, there could be as many as 100,000 voters tilting the balance of votes since the 1990s. Their presence would have affected the integrity of electoral processes at both state and federal level, and now throws election results into doubt. Furthermore, BERSIH 2.0 has received reports from the public of similar misconduct happening in other parts of the country. The findings of the MERAP study indicate that the same problems are happening in states such as Selangor.
We therefore call on both the EC and the government to launch an investigation into whether the alleged “Ops Durian Buruk” has also been replicated in Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia. BERSIH 2.0 expresses its deep concern at the short window of opportunity between now and the deadline for general elections for any action to be taken. We reiterate the offer from Malaysian civil society to help the EC clean up the rolls.
BERSIH 2.0 urges the EC and the government to take the allegations seriously. Clean and fair elections are not aspirations of one political party or the other, but the right of every Malaysian.
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