Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretay-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at DAP Hqrs in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 12th March 1990 at 12 noon
Election Commission has violated its constitutional duty of being an Independent body and is taking directive from UMNO Baru and Barisan Nasional Government
Last Friday, during the debate in the Dewan Rakyat on supplementary estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, I said that the Election Commission was no more independent as required by the Constitution, and that it was taking directives from UMNO Baru and the Barisan Nasional Government.
In his reply, the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Raja Dato Ariffin bin Raja Sulaiman, challenged me to repeat outside the House my allegation that the Election Commission was not independent and threatened me with legal action either by the Election Commission or the Government.
This is what Raja Dato Ariffin said: “tetapi tuduhan Yang Berhormat mengatakan bahawa Suruhan jaya tidak bebas, ini satu tuduhan yang melampau yang memberikan satu gambaran yang saya ingat tidak adil depada Suruhanjaya Pilihanraya. Yang Berhormat boleh membuat tuduhan ini diluar supaya kita tengok pihak Suruhanjaya Pilihanraya ataupun mana-mana pihak sanggup mengambil tindakan terhadap Yang Berhormat.”
I await whatever legal action the Election Commission or the Attorney-General wants to take against me
I immediately responded that I accept his challenge to repeat my allegation outside the House, and gave him notice that I would invite him for the occasion.
On Saturday, I publicly invited Raja Dato Arrifin to be here for this occasion to be a witness to my accepting his challenge to repeat my allegation that the Election Commission is not independent, but unfortunately, Raja Dato Ariffin dare not be present. I had also publicly invited the Chairman and Members of the Election Commission to be present, as well as their panel of lawyers, but none of them is here.
I am here to, and I hereby do, repeat my allegation in the Dewan Rakyat last Friday that the Election Commi8ssion is not independent, and I await whatever legal action the Election Commission or the Attorney-General wants to take against me for this statement.
In fact, I want to elaborate on what I said in the Dewan Rayat last Friday on the Election Commission failing its constitutional duty to be a independent body.
In Parliament last Friday, I produced a copy of a circular sent out by the Kelantan UMNO Baru Sate Liaison Secretary, Hj. Ahmad Shahibuddin bin Hj. Mohd. Nor dated February 26, 1990 to all Kelantan UMNO Baru divisional secretaries directing all divisions to register UMNO Baru members and supporters as voters during the current snap 27-day voters’ registration exercise ending on March 27/
The Education Minister and UMNO Baru National Vice President, Anwar Ibrahim, interrupted me during the debate and claimed that the circular by the UMNO Baru Kelantan State Liaison Secretary was merely a letter to all UMNO Baru divisions to encourage eligible voters to register themselves.
Attempt by Anwar Ibrahim to mislead Parliament and the people
This is a poor attempt by Anwar Ibrahim to mislead Parliament and the people, for the contents of the circular is very clear to any ordinary reader that it is a directive that UMNO Baru divisions should actively involve in the process of registering voters themselves, and as in previous years, to collect and keep the counterfoil (kaka borang) of the registration forms. This can only mean that UMNO Baru have access to voters’ registration forms denied to all Opposition parties, for there is no other way for a political party to collect the ‘kaki borang’ of the voter’s registration forms.
The circular by Shahibuddin contradicts and disproves Anwar’s claim, which among other things, said:
“ 2. Sebagaimana yang kita semua memaklumi bahawa gerakan ini mungkin merupakan peluang terakhir untuk mendaftar segai pemilih atau berpindah tempat mengundi disebabkan oleh perpindahan tempat tinggal. Malahan gerakan ini diadakan awal atas permintaan kita setelah menyedari masih ramai ahli UMNO yang belum mendaftar sebagai pemilih diseluruh negara.
“ 3. Memandangkan gerakan ini sangat penting dan mungkin merupakan peluang kali terakhir sebelum pilihanraya umum, maka Badan Perhubungan sukacita meminta tiap-tiap Bahagian mengambil langkah berikut:-
1. Mangadakan Majlis Perjumpaan kepada pemimpin-pemimpin Cawangan agar mengambil tindakan khusus mendaftar ahli dan penyoking UMNO di Cawangan masing-masing yang belum lagi mendaftar supaya didaftarkan. Untuk tujuan pendaftaran kali ini mereka yang layak mendaftar ialah mereka yang lahir pada atau sebelum 28hd. Feb. 1969.
2. Mengadakan Jawatankuasa Khas di peringkat Bahagian untuk menglaksanakan perkara ini.
3. Melantik pelari-pelari sebagaimana yang dibuat semasa gerakan pendaftaran tahun 1989. Untuk tujuan ini Badan Perhubungan bersetuju untuk membayar sedikit habuan kepada pelari-pelari ini. Pelari-pelari ini seberapa boleh adalah mereka yang telah dilantik dilantik menjadi pelari dalam masa gerakan daftar pemilih tahun 1989 dulu. Setiap Kawasan Dun diperuntukan seorng pelari. Pelari dikehendaki memunggut ‘Counterfail’ atau kaki borang pendaftaran bagi penyokong kita.
4. Setiap Bahagian dikehendaki menyerahkan satu penyata bilangan ahli penyokong kita yang baru berdaftar.”
Hj Shahibuddin said in Paragraph 2 of his circular that “gerakan ini diadakan awal atas permintaan kita,” which is mere euphemism for ‘directive’ of UMNO Baru, is clear admission that the snap 27-day voters registration exercise is at the behest of UMNO Baru with the primary objective of registering 300,000 UMNO Baru members as voters because “ini mungkin merupakan peluang terakhir untuk mendaftar sebagai pemilih”.
The third Paragraph of the Shahibuddin circular sets out the mechanics for the UMNO Divisions to appoint ‘runners’ with voters’ registration forms to register UMNO members and supporters, retain the counterfoil of registration forms (which would be retained by individual voters if they are directly registered by the election Office), submit a report of the number of voters they had registered in the whole exercise, and paid an allowance for the registration of voters – presumably based on the number of new voters registered as in the past.
This was not a circular of appeal to eligible voters to register, as Anwar Ibrahim pretended, but a directive to UMNO Divisions to actively involve in the exercise for the registration of voters.
Other proofs of lack of Independence of Election Commission
This is the first proof that the Election Commission is not independent, taking directive form UMNO Baru to launch the sanp 27-day voters’ registration exercise, and giving UMNO Baru facilities for their divisions to register voters – which is denied to Opposition parties.
It is not the only proof.
Second Proof: In January 1990, UMNO Baru Ministers and leaders, like the Information Minister and UMNO Secretary-General, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat, were telling UMNO Baru divisional and branch leaders to get ready to carry out a snap voters’ registration exercise in a month’s time – more than a month before the Election Commission made a formal announcement about the voters’ registration campaign.
Third proof: On 3rd February 1990, 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 conduting a “comprehensive and systematic exercise to help the Election Commission register voters”.
Fourth Proof: Ever since the end of January, I had publicly challenged the Election Commission to come out with a clear-cut statement whether it was preparing to launch a snap voters’ registration campaign in a month’s time, but there was neither confirmation nor denial by the Election Commission until February 22, 1990, when an official announcement was made by the Election Commission of the snap voters’ registration campaign, beginning in six days’ time on March 1.
Fifth proof: The Election Commission was not ready to launch the snap voters’ registration exercise on March 1, for it was until the last minute struggling to complete its preparation for the 1989 Electoral Roll. In fact, when the voters’ registration exercise was launched on March 1, the Election Commission was unable to send out the new 1989 Electoral Roll to all State Election offices and registration centres. Up till now, the Election Commission has not been able to supply Opposition parties with the new 1989 Electoral Roll.
Sixth proof: The Election Commission is not serious in launching a campaign to ensure maximum registration of every eligible voter. Many centres in the urban areas are unmanned and the public could not register or check whether their names are on the electoral roll.
I have other reasons for making my allegation that the Election Commission has lost its independence as provided for by the Constitution so that it could enjoy public confidence to conduct free, fair, clean and honest general elections.
Massive complaint of deletion of named from electoral roll although they had voted in previous general elections
In the past week, the DAP has received numerous complaints throughout the country that voters who had voted in the previous one or two general elections have found that their names had been deleted from the Electoral Roll. How could this happen? Is the disenfranchisement of voters throughout the country on a massive scale?
The DAP has not been able to help the public to check whether their names had been deleted and removed form the Electoral Roll, and have lost their fundamental right to vote unless they re-register themselves, because the Election Commission has said that they could not sell us the new 1989 Electoral Roll until after the end of the voters’ registration exercise.
It would be utterly useless for the Election Commission to supply the DAP with the new 1989 Electoral Roll when the voters’ registration exercise had ended on March 27.
The DAP has therefore come to the painful conclusion that in the current snap 27-day voters’ registration exercise, the objectives of UMNO Baru and the Barisan Nasional government are:
Firstly, register the 300,000 UMNO Baru members;
Secondly, make it difficult for the public, as well as opposition parties, to check whether voters in their strong areas had been disenfranchised with their named removed from the electoral roll;
Thirdly, arrange the voters’ registration centres in such a fashion the eligible voters in Opposition areas are not encouraged to register as voters.
Election Commission does not consult opposition parties on changes to election laws and regulations
The bias and lack of independence of the Election Commission could also be seen from three other instances. Firstly, the Election Commission takes the directive from UMNO Baru and the Barisan Nasional Government to change election laws and regulations.
Thus in the current proposal to change the system of counting from centralized counting in a Parliamentary constituency to counting at the separate polling centres which will be debated by Parliament in the coming week, the whole proposal was made without consultation with the Opposition Parties. The Election Commission acts and is seen as acting as a creature of UMNO Baru and Barisan Nasional Government.
Election Commission obeys polling date of general elections fixed by ruling government
Secondly, the Election Commission also lacks independence to decide on the date of the polling day for the general elections.
Under the Constitution, it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to decide on the date of the dissolution of Parliament to call general elections. But once Parliament is dissolved, it is the sole duty of the Election Commission to decide when to issue the election writ, and fix the dates for Nomination and Polling Day. However, the Election Commission had invariably obeyed the directive of the ruling government on the date of polling, which again betrays its lack of independence.
Why is the reaction of Election Commission to Election Watch completely identical with that of Dr. Mahathir?
Thirdly, the reaction of the Election Commission to the establishment of the six-man Election Watch headed by former Lord President, Tun Suffian, is completely identical with that of Dr. Mahathir.
If the Election Commission is independent and unbiased, why should its reaction to he establishment of the Election Watch be exactly the same as that of the Prime Minister: that the Election Watch members are anti-government people and cannot be objective?
This could only reinforce the conviction of the Malaysian public that even in its public reactions, the Election Commission had to toe the line of UMNO Baru and the Barisan Nasional Government.
Design for Barisan Nasional not only to retain two-thirds Parliamentary majority but to establish One Party Parliament
The DAP is very concerned that the current voters’ registration exercise is designed primarily to achieve the three-fold objective of (i) to benefit UMNO Baru in the next general elections, by registering its 300,000 UMNO Baru members, (ii) to disenfranchise Opposition voters by deleting their names form the electoral roll or not providing adequate facilities for checking whether their names had already been illegally deleted and (iii) to disencourage the maximum registration of voters in Opposition areas.
If these election irregularities take place on a massive scale, there is no doubt that it could determine the outcome of the next general elections, and the Barisan Nasional government would not only succeed in retaining its two-third parliamentary majority, but in defeating the DAP and the Opposition in the next general elections to establish a One-Party Parliament.
The DAP is completely helpless in the face of an uncooperative Election Commission which is so biased and has lost its constitutional independence. The only remedy is in the hands of the people who can ensure that their voting rights are not deprived or denied by taking the trouble in the next 15 days to check
Whether their named still appear on the electoral roll, and if not, to quickly re-register themselves; and for those who have never registered as a voter, to do so immediately.
DAP wants an Independent Election Commission and a Clean Electoral Roll
The DAP wants an independent Election Commission as provided for the Constitution and a clean Electoral Roll to ensure a free, fair, clean and honest general elections.
The Election Commission cannot be expected to be fair and independent if it acts on the directive of UMNO Baru and the Barisan Nasional Government and refuses to treat all political parties, whether ruling or opposition, on fair and equal terms.
The Election Commission has admitted that it does not have a clean electoral roll. Election Commission Secretary, Haji Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, said on 28th February 1990 that a truly clean roll could only be maintained if the Commission was allocated $30 to $40 million.
Haji Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman claims that under the present electoral roll, “nobody was deprived of his right to vote”. How could be say this when so many Malaysian have their names delated from the Electoral Roll without their knowledge, and if general elections are held now, they would have been “deprived of the right to vote”!
DAP reserves the right to challenge the legality of general elections when electoral rolls are not clean and Election Commission not independent
DAP reserves the right to challenge the propriety and legality of holding general elections when electoral rolls are incomplete and unclean, and when the Election Commission has clearly deviated from the Constitutional stipulation that it should enjoy public confidence to conduct free, fair, clean and honest general elections.
When the Election Commission. Has lost public confidence in its independence, then it has lost its Constitutional mandate, and it is opening itself to legal and Constitutional challenges as to the legality and lawfulness of its actions and decisions.