Press Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, 21st July 1990:
Dr. Mahathir seems to be trying to back out of his commitment to invite the Commonwealth Observer Mission through Tun Omar and the formation of the Group of Concerned Citizens (GOCC)
The formation of the five-man Group of Concerned Citizens (GOCC), headed by the former Senate President, Tun Omar Yoke Lin Ong, is clearly the Barisan Nasional Government’s counter to the six-man Election Watch headed by former Lord President, Tun Mohamad Suffian.
But what is most disturbing about the formation of the Group of Concerned Citizens is that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir, seems to be trying to back out of his commitment to invite the Commonwealth Observer Mission to Malaysia for the next general elections.
The timing of the formation and announcement of the GOCC is very significant, as it is clearly made for the benefit of the two Commonwealth Secretariat representatives currently in the country to sound out the views of political parties to the proposal of a Commonwealth Observer Mission.
In declaring its total opposition against any group, local or foreign, being allowed to observe the election process in Malaysia, the GOCC is striking out a position which could be adopted by Dr. Mahathir when he wants to renege from his commitment to have a Commonwealth Observer Mission.
What has the authorities to hide in not wanting the general elections to be observed?
Tun Omar and the five-man GOCC should explain what the Malaysian authorities have to hide that they are so fearful of local and foreign observer teams in the next general elections.
The question of the undermining of the position, authority and integrity of the Election Commission does not arise at all. If Tun Omar and GOCC are absolutely convinced that the next general elections will be ‘free, fair, clean and honest’, then the position, authority and integrity of the Election Commission would be further enhanced not only in Malaysia but throughout the world, because the observer missions would have no choice but to have report the truth.
Of course, if there is going to be a lot of hanky-panky and gerrymandering, then it would be most unwise to permit local or foreign observer groups in the next general elections.
It is Tun Omar and the GOCC who have no confidence in the Election Commission, so fearful that it would not be able to stand up to local and international scrutiny by observer groups. By coming out with their statement, Tun Omar and the GOCC are doing a disservice to the Election Commission, for it could only reinforce public doubts as to why the authorities are afraid of fullest public scrutiny and observation of the next general elections.
Tun Omar and GOCC do not understand the scope of Commonwealth Observer Mission
It is also sad to read the statement by five members of GOCC, for it shows they do not really understand the scope and terms of reference of the Commonwealth Observer Mission.
The area that will be covered by the Commonwealth Observer Mission is very much larger than the jurisdiction falling within the purview of the Election Commission.
This is because the terms of reference of the Commonwealth Observer Mission is not just to observe the arrangements made by the Election Commission for the voters to cast their vote on polling day, and for the count of the votes; but the very much larger area of observing whether the entire general elections campaign is ‘fair, free, clean and honest’.
To do so, the Commonwealth Observer Mission, for instance, should consider whether there is freedom of speech and assembly in the general elections to allow all parties and candidates freedom of access to the voters, so that the voters can be an informed choice on polling day.
No general elections can be said to be ‘free, fair, clean and honest’, for instance, if the mass media are one-sided, and the Opposition shut out from the press, radio and television – where the Prime Minister attacks the Opposition leaders every day without the Opposition having the right of reply; or where the Prime Minister could hold public rallies every day which is denied to the Opposition; or where there is rampant politics of money and politics of corruption to buy votes.
These are areas which are outside the purview of the Election Commission, but which go to the heart of the question as to whether the general elections is ‘free, fair, clean and honest’.
Tun Omar has put up the weakest possible case against any local or foreign observer group for the next general elections.
Is Tun Omar and GOCC convinced of the rightness and soundness of their stand? If so, are they prepared to have public debates with the Election Watch to see who can win the hearts and minds of the Malaysian people on this issue? Or are these distinguished personages prepared to have public debates with the DAP to test the soundness of their stand?
Finally, the distinguished personages on the GOCC should be fully aware that the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meetings (CHOGM) in October last year set up a high-level Commonwealth Study Group to propose the future role of the Commonwealth in the 1990s.
This Commonwealth Study Group, which is headed by Dr. Mahathir, has as one of its specific terms of reference, the task of strengthening the democratic ethics and institutions in Commonwealth member nations, and is was asked to consider the specific proposal of sending observer missions to Commonwealth nations to observe general elections.
Are Tun Omar and the other distinguished personages now suggesting that Dr. Mahathir should have never agreed to be the chairman of such a Commonwealth Study Group, or that Malaysia should take the stand that other Commonwealth member countries should receive observer missions for the elections, but not Malaysia?
Instead of calling themselves the Group of Concerned Citizens (GOCC), it would be more apt to describe them as Group of Confused Citizens!