DAP accuses Elections Commission for lack of independence, Impartiality and integrity

Statement by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at a Press Conference held at Kuala Lumpur DAP Branch premises at 63-D Jalan Sultan on Tuesday, 19th Sept. 1972 at 12 noon

DAP accuses Elections Commission for lack of independence, Impartiality and integrity in the manner it is conducting the registration of voter’s exercise and calls on Acting Prime Minister to intervene in the matter to restore Public confidence in the Elections Commission

I have called this press conference to make a very serious accusation against the Elections Commission, particularly its chairman, Tan Sri Ahmad Perang.

From the way the Elections Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Ahmad Perang, is conducting the registration of voters’ campaign, it is clear that the Elections Commission does not have the independence, impartiality and integrity expected of it by the public and all opposition political parties.

The purpose of the current registration of voters exercise by the Elections Commission is not to ensure the maximum registration of all eligible voters, to make the democratic process more meaningful, but to seek to undermine Opposition strongholds by (i) carrying out maximum cancellation of voters and registering minimum number of new eligible voters in Opposition strongholds and urban areas ; and (ii) carrying out maximum registration of eligible new voters in Alliance strongholds and rural areas.

We in the DAP had in the last three weeks, tried to secure the co-operation of the Elections Commission to ensure that there is a smooth machinery which will give every eligible voter a chance to be registered, but sad to say, I must state that all we have encountered from the Elections Commission is obstruction, and hostility.

The DAP accusation that the Elections Commission, particularly its Chairman, Tan Sri Ahmad Perang, lacks independence, impartiality and integrity expected of them, is not lightly made. I will substantiate our accusation with the following reasons:

1. Refusal of Elections Commission Chairman to allow opposition parties to help register voters

For the first time in Malaysian history, the Elections Commission has refused to furnish opposition parties with registration of voter forms to help register eligible voters. For the past 15 years, opposition parties were supplied with such forms. The purpose clearly is to prevent the maximum registration of eligible voters in Opposition strongholds and urban areas.

What is all the more glaringly unjust is that the government would accept the endorsement or testimonial of Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen for applications of passports, citizenships, and other very important papers by members of the public, but the Elections Commission Chairman would not accept an application to register as voter which is witnessed or endorsed by an M.P. or State Assemblyman.

2. Registration agents in Opposition areas more concerned about voter cancellation than voter registration

The registration agents sent to opposition areas are more interested in voter cancellation than voter registration.

Such agents will call at a house, ask whether the various names on the voter’s list are in, without explaining what he is about. Invariably, the woman folk in the house will say they are not in – for they will be out at work – and the registration agents will then cancel their names from the electoral roll.

This is why at the last general elections, and at every by-election, we find thousands of voters in every constituency complaining that they had been disenfranchised, for they have lost their right to vote although they had voted in previous election and had not moved their address.

Last year alone, in my constituency of Bandar Melaka, 4,200 voters were deleted from the electoral roll during the registration of voter’s exercise. Probably, the exercise should be more aptly called ‘cancellation of voters exercise.’

I have also received reports from our branches throughout the country that some of these registration agents refuse to register new eligible voters when on their rounds cancelling names.

The purpose again, is to weaken the electoral advantage of the opposition strongholds and urban areas, by the most foul and undemocratic means.

3. Minimum publicity about the Registration of Voters exercise

The Elections Commission has conducted the least publicity campaign this year about the revision of electoral rolls, for fear that the public would come to know of it.

Two-thirds of the registration period is gone, and there are only 10 days left. But the large majority of the people are not aware of the registration of voters’ period, and as for those who know, they do not know where to go and register.

There is no spot announcement in four languages over Television Malaysia, and full use of the publicity and propaganda machinery of the government through radio, information vans, poster campaigns, press, etc.

In fact, the government deliberately does not want people to know much about this campaign. To supplement the virtual total lack of publicity about the registration of voters, the DAP had decided to send out mobile announcement teams to the various constituencies to inform the people about the registration, and where to go and register themselves. The police, however, have refused to grant us the permit.

The purpose, clearly, is to ensure that in urban areas and Opposition strongholds, there is minimum publicity.

4. Maximum inconvenience so as to discourage people from registering

Coupled with the minimum publicity to keep the registration from the knowledge of the maximum number of people in the urban areas, the Elections Commission has devised a system where there is maximum inconvenience to discourage anybody who knows and wants to register as a voter or to check whether he is still a voter.

The following are some of the inconveniences:

i. The intending registrant does not know where to go and register. Thus, in the whole of Petaling Jaya, the intending registrants are at a complete loss as to where to register themselves. They also do not know how to find out this information. Discouraged, they decided to forgo registration.

ii. The registration of voters during office hours is a cause of great inconvenience to the people who have to work and to the housewives who have to look after the homes. If the registration centre is accessible nearby, as at political offices, community centres, association premises, and open at all hours, then such inconvenience would be removed, and there would be encouragement for registration.

iii. Many people who go to district or land offices in the different parts of the country to register are made to wait, either because the officer in charge is not in, or he is busy doing some other thing.

iv. There are offices which tell intending registrants to go home because there they have no registration forms.

It would is plain that the object this year is not to encourage registration of voters in urban and Opposition areas, but to discourage it by putting a whole heap of obstacles and inconvenience in the way.

5. Obstructive and hostile attitude and tactics by Elections Commission

The Elections Commission has refused to sell or lend electoral rolls to Opposition parties, so that they could at least help the public by checking whether they are registered voters, or whether they have been disenfranchised.

Our Selangor State Assemblyman for Bukit Raja, Sdr.K. Ramasen, found that he had been disenfranchised and lost his name on the electoral register although he had never moved from his address for the last 10 years. But how many people will go and check whether their names have been arbitrarily deleted, especially it means all the inconvenience of going to government offices?

Call on Acting Prime Minister to intervene to ensure independence, impartiality and integrity of Elections Commission

The Prime Minister, in the August meeting of Parliament, when replying to one of my oral questions, had given a solemn assurance that the Elections Commission will co-operate fully with Opposition parties to ensure maximum registration of eligible voters.

The Elections Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Ahmad Perang, had not only failed to honour the pledge of the Prime Minister, he had been obstructive, unco-operative and coldly determined to disenfranchise large number of voters in Opposition areas, and deny eligible voters in Opposition and urban areas opportunities to register themselves without any inconvenience.

I hereby call on the Acting Prime Minister, Tun Dr, Ismail, to intervene to ensure that the registration machinery is immediately rectified to allow eligible voters convenience, easy accessibility and opportunity to register as voters, or to check that they have not been unfairly disenfranchised.

This can only be done with the co-operation of opposition political parties, by enlisting their offer to co-operate to register voters.

As the general elections may be held next year, this will be the last registration exercise, and those who did not register, and who have their names disenfranchised and did not restore their names back to the rolls, would not be able to cast their vote at the next general elections.

There is suspicion that the present manner of de-registering voters and denying the people easy registeration is part of the scheme to strengthen the Alliance and weaken the Opposition for the next general elections.

The Elections Commission must carry out its registration of voter’s exercise fairly and justly, if it is to regain the confidence of the people and the opposition parties about its independence, impartiality and integrity.

I therefore make the following proposals to dispel public loss of confidence about the fairness and justice of the Elections Commission:

1. The present registration period should be regarded as a pilot project, to determine how effective the registration can be carried out without co – operation of opposition parties.

2. The Elections Commission should set aside another 42 days, say starting from Nov. 1, to carry out a proper registration of voters’ exercise. In this period, the opposition parties should be given registration forms and electoral rolls to try to ensure maximum registration of all eligible voters.

If the Elections Commission intends to see the maximum registration of all eligible voters, and does not have any ulterior motive, then it should be able to accept my two suggestions.

However, as the present attitude of the Elections Chairman, Tan Sri Ahmad Perang, is more unc – operative one, I urge the Acting Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Ismail, to intervene to ensure that there is a fair and just registration of voters operation.

Unless the Elections Commission and the Government institute remedies to allow a fresh registration of voter’s exercise later this year, then the DAP will have no confidence whatsoever in the integrity of the Elections Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Ahmad Perang, and we would make it an issue in the next session of parliament.