Opposition MP calls for special Parliament sitting for EC chair appointment

Indera Makhota MP Saifuddin Abdullah has suggested a special parliamentary sitting to oversee the appointment of the Election Committee (EC) chairperson and the Parliamentary Service Act (PSA).

Saifuddin proposed an earlier meeting to discuss the setting up of special committees on two crucial matters before the June sitting of Dewan Rakyat.

“The special sitting can be held before the scheduled sitting in June. It should last at least two days, during which we can discuss the EC chairperson and PSA (Parliamentary Services Act).

“My suggestion is to hold it after the Kuala Kubu Baharu by-election,” he said during a forum held at Bersih’s office on Tuesday night.

The former foreign minister said another way to start the EC chairperson appointment is for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to request that Dewan Rakyat speaker Johari Abdul set up a committee.

“But, if there is a need for the special sitting, MPs will come,” he added.

With the current EC chairperson, Abdul Ghani Salleh, expected to retire in May, Bersih had urged the government to reform the EC appointment process, suggesting that it go through a parliamentary committee.

Under Bersih’s 100 percent reform campaign, the electoral watchdog group had 10 demands to the government, including the transparent appointment of the EC chairperson and its members and enacting the PSA.

During the March parliamentary sitting, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Azalina Othman said, revealed that the PSA is “90 percent complete” and the draft law has already been prepared.

EC independence ‘mother of reforms’

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia associate professor Helen Ting from the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas), who was among the panel during the forum, added that allowing the EC to act as an independent body would be the “mother of election reform”.

“Both the BN and Pakatan Harapan manifestos have listed the need to re-assess the appointment of essential chairpersons, including EC.

“But until now, it has not been done. Perhaps there isn’t time.

“Therefore, the first step is to (consider) appoint someone that both Perikatan Nasional and the unity government can accept,” she added.

Ting added that having a parliamentary discussion about the appointment would allow both the government and the opposition to review the candidates and become more familiar with them.

She also said the EC should be given more autonomy instead of being considered as civil servants.

“The new chairperson must be open to communicating with the public. They might not have to listen to everyone constantly, but they must be willing to explain actions taken to the public.

“Take a look at Azhar Azizan Harun. He took the initiative to communicate with the public. It is such a small step but it made an impact,” Helen added.

On Sept 21, 2018, veteran lawyer Azhar, better known as Art Harun, was appointed EC chairperson. He was then appointed the Dewan Rakyat speaker in July 2020 following the Sheraton Move political coup.

(First released by Malaysiakini on 24 April 2024: https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/703406)