MEDIA RELEASE (17 February 2014)
BERSIH 2.0 supporters who have been itching for action since the 13th General Election can now get going by joining the Delineation Action and Research Team (DART).
The new ‘battle-cry’ is: “We vote; we decide our boundaries.”
“Because we know how gerrymandering and excessive malapportionment of electoral constituencies can affect the value of our votes, BERSIH 2.0 is embarking on this project with Engage to encourage citizen participation in the upcoming redelineation by the Election Commission,” said the coalition’s chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah.
Engage chairperson Thomas Fann elaborated: “DART is a nation-wide citizen action project to empower voters to have an informed say on how their electoral boundaries should be drawn.”
Both were speaking at the media conference in Kuala Lumpur on 17 February 2014 to announce the project.
Explaining why the DART project was initiated, Maria said: “BERSIH 2.0’s eight demands cover a wide area. However, they do not address the cheating that has already happened in how the electoral boundaries are drawn. The largely unchallenged delineations of the past, which poorly represented and reflected the people’s will, are one of the major problems in the issue of electoral reform.”
Fortunately, Maria added, it is also one of the processes where voter participation is actually provided for by the Federal Constitution; Schedule 13 allows for objections to the EC’s proposed boundaries from affected voters if there is a representation of 100 or more of them.
“So we must make use of this opportunity given to us if we want election results that truly reflect the aspirations of the people,” she said.
The DART project is designed to help voters prepare their objections. Maria said the project will commence with a soft launch this Saturday in Johor Bahru, where Engage is based, and a national launch on 9 March (Sunday) in Petaling Jaya, followed by a nation-wide tour in major cities. The DART roadshow will be in Penang on 30 March.
Fann, who is also BERSIH 2.0 southern peninsula vice-chairperson, said there will be a DART roadshow, which consists of a townhall meeting in major cities to introduce delineation of electoral boundaries, why it is important and how it has affected election results of the past.
“More than that, we will show what ordinary voters can do to make the delineation representative of their local interests,” he said.
Crucially, the meetings will also serve to identify a core team of five to 10 dedicated volunteers to form the DART team, who will organise and lead the 100+ voter representation in their constituencies, added Fann.
The core teams will also be trained in workshops where resources, from legal and electoral know-how to the necessary maps that can illuminate local conditions on the ground, will be provided to strengthen their objections, he said.
BERSIH 2.0 resource person Dr Wong Chin Huat, who was also at the media conference, said, “The EC outrageously malapportioned and gerrymandered constituencies in 2003 and 2005 because Malaysians did not put up much resistance.
“This time we will take them up in inquiries, in the Court of public opinion and, if necessary, Court of Law.”
Maria urged all BERSIH 2.0 supporters who have been waiting for the next action for free and fair elections to come to the DART roadshow, learn about the delineation exercise, and mobilise 100+ voters to be ready to check whatever the EC is proposing for their respective constituencies.
“The upcoming delimitation exercise by the EC will decide the outcome of GE14. And we have a chance to level this playing field through DART,” she said.
Fann added: “If citizens don’t get involved in this delineation exercise, we might as well forget about expecting a free and fair GE14.”
He offered another compelling reason for peace-loving citizens to take part in the DART project.
“Forcing a change in the delineation of our constituencies would also force a change in the political discourse of this country since our constituencies are presently demarcated in a partisan way to along racial lines, which is also closely related to religion in this country.
“So, if such boundaries were changed, instead of focusing on racial and religious issues, politicians would be forced to focus on their policies and ideas for the country,” he said.
And that is surely what all peace-loving Malaysians would want.
(The full details of the DART project and roadshow will be available on the BERSIH 2.0 website on 22 February.)
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0, which comprises:
Maria Chin Abdullah (Chairperson), Dr Farouk Musa (Deputy Chairperson), Masjaliza Hamzah (Treasurer), Farhana Halim, New Sin Yew, Thomas Fann (Southern Peninsula Vice-Chair), Jannie Lasimbang (Sabah vice-chair), Simon Lee Ying Wai (Central Peninsula Vice-Chair) and Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon (Northern Peninsula Vice-Chair).