Continued Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat during the debate on the Royal Address on Wednesday 28, 1990
DAP access UMNO Baru and Barisan Nasional Government of trying to subvert the independence and integrity of the Election Commission
Yesterday, before the adjournment of the House, I was developing the theme that ever since the August 1986 general elections, Parliamentary Democracy had been greatly undermined by a series of year-by-year assaults on the fundamental rights, principles and institutions without which there could be no meaningful parliamentary democracy.
By 1990, the fundamental rights of freedom of speech, assembly, association and liberty of the person, the fundamental principles of Parliamentary supremacy, the independence of the Judiciary, the rule of law, the doctrine of the separation of powers, and the institutions of Parliament, the Judiciary and a free Press had become subordinated and subservient to the Executive and in particular, the Prime Minister – to the extent that there is even a serious attempt to suggest that the Attorney-General is above Parliament and a law unto himself.
When Malaysia entered the 1990s, there is cause for concern that another major and vital institution of parliamentary democracy will become the next target of attack and subversion – that is, the Election Commission.
In January, UMNO Baru Ministers and leaders had been telling their divisional and branch leaders to get ready to carry out a snap voters’ registration exercise in a month’s time. This is because UMNO Baru is fearful of losing its two-thirds parliamentary majority, if not power altogether, in the next general elections.
At that time, the Election Commission was struggling to complete the new electoral rolls to incorporate the registration exercise of 1989. on 3rd February, the UMNO Baru Youth Information Chief, Mohamed Zahid Hamidi, told reporters that 300,000 UMNO Baru members were not yet registered voters and said that UMNO Youth was still conducting a “comprehensive and systematic exercise to help the Election Commission register voters”.
The question that arises is how could UMNO Youth continue to help the Election Commission to register voters when the 1989 voters registration exercise took place from May 21 to July 2, 1989, and the revised draft roll was put up for public inspection from Nov. 17 to 30. And up to now, the Election Commission has not been able to produce the final 1989 Electoral Register.
How could UMNO Baru and UMNO Baru Youth help the Election Commission to register voters, in particular the 300,000 unregistered UMNO Baru members, when there was no voters’ registration after July 2 1989? Was there a secret voters’ registration exercise for UMNO Baru which the public is completely unaware?
Had UMNO Baru and UMNO Baru Youth been involved in an unconstitutional conspiracy to subvert the Constitutional independence of the Election Commission, to conduct fair and free elections without interference or directive from any political party, whether ruling or Opposition, or the government of the day?
It is a matter of public record that for over a month, I had publicly asked the Election Commission to make a clear statement on what the UMNO Baru leaders are telling their divisional chiefs, that the Election Commission – at that time tried down in trying to complete the 1989 Electoral Roll – was also preparing to hold a snap voters’ registration exercise from March 1. it is also a matter of public record that for a month there was stony silence from the Election Commission.
It was only a few days ago that the Election Commission announced that the snap 27-day voters’ registration exercise would begin on March 1 – confirming what UMNO Baru Ministers and leaders had been telling their party people way back in January.
Yesterday, the Speaker, Tan Sri Zahir Ismail, disallowed my attempt to move a motion under Standing Order 18(1) to debate the secret directive of UMNO Baru to the Election Commission to conduct the snap 27-day voters’ registration exercise, primarily to register the 300,000 unregistered UMNO Baru members, ruling that the conduct and character of members of the Election Commission can only be questioned by way of a substantive motion.
Even if I move such a substantive motion, which requires 14-day notice, the Government’s parliamentary record is so well known that I would not get time for the substantive motion to be debated.
Although I disagree, I accept the Speaker’s ruling yesterday. In fact, it was never my intention to question the conduct or character of the members of Election Commission, for I believe they are honourable men and patriotic Malaysians, who also heed the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s call in his Royal Address on Monday to all Malaysians to defend the system of Parliamentary Democracy.
However, I accuse UMNO Baru and the Barisan Nasional Government of wanting to subvert the independence and integrity of the Election Commission because UMNO Baru wants to register its 300,000 members as voters before the next general elections for fear of losing its two-third parliamentary majority, if not losing power altogether.
I accuse UMNO Baru and the Barisan Nasional Government of wanting to subvert the independence and integrity of the Election Commission by even having UMNO Baru members below 21 years of age registered as voters, and to achieve this by trying to get the Election Commission to employ UMNO Baru workers masked as staff of Kemas and other quasi-government bodies as registering officials.
I accuse UMNO Baru and the Barisan Nasional Government of trying to subvert the independence and integrity of the Election Commission by issuing a secret directive to the Election Commission to hold the snap 27-day voters’ registration exercise beginning on March 1, although the Election Commission was not ready, and had not completed its 1989 Electoral Roll.
I accuse UMNO Baru and the Barisan Nasional Government of trying to subvert the independence and integrity of the Election Commission so that election rules and regulations could be changed to its advantage – like the change in the system of counting on voting day, from a centralised counting centre in each parliamentary constituency to decentralised counting in the respective polling centres.
I accuse UMNO Baru and the Barisan Nasional Government of trying to subvert the independence and integrity of the Election Commission by wanting the Commission to comply with its directives and wished, instead of calling a meeting of all political parties, whether ruling or opposition, to seek their views and consensus, whenever there are proposals for changes to election rules and regulations, or about the voters’ registration exercise.
This is why the establishment of the six-man Election Watch, headed by Tun Suffian, and comprising distinguished Malaysians like Tan Sri Ahmad Nordin, Raja Aziz Addruse, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy and Chooi Mun Sou, is most timely and important.
In its initial statement, the Election Watch referred to the allegations of wrongdoings in the past few months which have raised doubt about the entire electoral process. The Election Watch has rightly held that the Election Commission has an obligation to investigate these allegations thoroughly and clear whatever doubts that may exist in the public mind. The public must be convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that elections will be fair. The integrity and honesty of the Election Commission should never be in question.
Is the UMNO Baru ‘mock elections’ exercise a preparation to rig the next general elections?
As the Election Watch has pointed out: “Our Election Commissioners know that they do not owe allegiance to the Executive or to any individual in power. Their allegiance is to the Constitution – and the Constitution alone.”
That there are many irregularities in our electoral process could be seen from the following examples:
• About 400,000 voters had registered more than once or had the same identity card numbers with others’
• The transfer, of at least 10,000, voters from one constituency to another without the voters’ knowledge.
What has made the whole electoral exercise come under a greater cloud is the two-week ‘mock election’ exercise conducted by UMNO Baru throughout the country. Is such a ‘mock election’ exercise, probably involving ballot boxes, ballot papers, counting centres and other paraphernalia of a general elections, permissible under the election laws of the land? Has the Election Commission called up then UMNO Baru for an explanation of ‘mock election’ exercise, as to whether it is a preparation to rig the next general elections?
Finally, it bears reiteration that to preserve its Constitutional independence and to continue to enjoy public confidence, the Election Commission should work closely with all political parties, whether ruling or opposition, for the Commission cannot be fair and independent or seen to be fair and independent if it changes election rule and regulations, as well as the mechanics of voters’ registration, without any consultation whatsoever with opposition political parties while everybody knows its special, though improper and even unconstitutional, relationship to the ruling parties and the government of the day.
The DAP is prepared to co-operate with Election Commission anytime. The question is whether the Election Commission is prepared to co-operate with Opposition parties.
Why the Government has not registered the Human Rights Society and granted Bahasa Malaysia Aliran permit?
When the human rights record of the government is dismal, Parliamentary democracy is in jeopardy. Why has the government to date refused to register the Human Rights Society, which has the full support of the two former Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn? Or for that matter, why is the Home Ministry afraid to issue a printing permit for the Bahasa Malaysia monthly of Aliran?