Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday, April 25, 1994 on the motion to adopt the Election Commission’s constituency redelineation proposals
In the constituency redelineation exercise, the Election Commission had failed the standard set by the 1990 Commonwealth Observer Group Report that “It is crucial to the democratic process that the Election Commission is independent and seen to be independent”
The Commonwealth Observer Group which witnessed the 1990 general elections said that “It is crucial to the democratic process that the Election Commission is independent and seen to be independent”.
It said that it had received representations from leaders of opposition parties and certain pressure groups and individuals which alleged that the Government and the Election Commission had been unfair in various aspects of the election process.
The constituency redelineation exercise is one of the important aspects of the electoral process where the Election Commission has failed the standard set by the 1990 Commonwealth Observer Group Report on the crucial importance of the Election Commission being “independent and seen to be independent”.
The Election Commission Report (Para 8) admitted that “Objektif ulangkaji ialah untuk menentukan semua warganergara yang layak diberi peluang dan kemudahan untuk melaksanakan tanggungjawab sebagai pengundi secara sistematik dan tersebut bagi pilihanraya yang bebas, adil dan demokratik”.
It is precisely because the Election Commission had failed to carry out its redelineation exercise in an independent, fair and democratic manner that on behalf of the DAP, I had instituted legal proceedings against the Election Commission in December 1992 against its first constituency redelineation exercise which was gazetted in November 1992, resulting in the revocation of that exercise and a second redelineation exercise gazetted in July 1993 and whose report is now before the House for approval.
I have nothing personal against the Election Commission Chairman, members and staff but the system they operate under do not permit the Election Commission to command the public confidence as mandated by the Constitution.
The biggest problem in Malaysian general elections is the pre-rigging of the electoral process like redelineation of constituencies to give unfair advantages to the ruling parties
It has been said that elections are by and large free and fair in Malaysia. This however has been debunked by the massive electoral abuses in the recent Sabah state general elections, where hundreds of millions of ringgit were used by the Barisan Nasional in its two-prong strategy to buy votes and hire illegal immigrants as ‘phantom voters’.
The biggest problem with elections in Malaysia is not so much vote-rigging on polling day, but the pre-rigging of the electoral process resulting in the Malaysian elections process not being fair, free, democratic and clean.
The redelineation of the electoral constituencies is one of the aspects of this pre-rigging of the electoral process by the Barisan Nasional government to give it unfair advantages over the Opposition, and other aspects of such pre-rigging had been identified by both the Commonwealth Observer Group and the Election Watch after the 1990 general elections, and include the registration of voters, access to both printed and electronic media, election funds and money politics, postal votes and the role of the Election Commission.
This is the third constituency redelineation report by the Election Commission to be presented to Parliament for adoption since Merdeka in 1957 – although altogether four exercises had been conducted, but the first constituency redelineation exercise conducted by a really independent Election Commission in 1961 was rejected by the Government because it did not serve the political agenda of UMNO.
This is also the most ‘politicised’ report of the Election Commission as compared to the two previous reports submitted to Parliament in 1974 and 1984.
I get the impression that the Eelction Commission has decided to issue a very ‘politicised’ report after it had suffered the humiliation exercise gazette notification as a result of my legal suit against the Election Commission, where the Election Commission had agreed to pay costs.
I will explain in the course of my speech why I say that the Election Commission Report before the House is the most ‘politicised’ of the three constituency redelineation reports which had been submitted to Parliament since 1974.
The Election Commission continues with its pretence that it is completely independent of the Barisan Nasional and in particular UMNNO in its redelineation of electoral constituencies.
Election Commission Report made quite open, political and biased attack against the DAP for its objections to its redelineation proposals
For instance, in the report, the Election Commission made quite open, political and biased attacks against the DAP for its objections to its redelineation proposals in the various states.
As examples, the Eelction Commission in its report was clearly referring to the DAP when it said:
• In the section on Penang state, “Isi kadungan rayuan-rayuan itu jelas mambayangkan bahawa ada pihak yang menganggap SPR sebagai sebuah badan kerajaan dan di dalam melaksanakan tugasnya telah bertindak mengikut kehendak parti pemerintah. Penggunaan istilah-istikah seperti ‘untuk memuaskan nafsu parti yang memerintah’ menunjukkan dengan nyata bahawa pihak berkenaan sebenarnya bukan bertujuan untuk merayu tatapi lebih merupai kecaman terhadap SPR.” (p. 102)
• in the section on Perak state, “Hampir semua rayuan oleh pengundi berkumpulan sitaja oleh sebuah parti tertentu. Rayuan daripada parti tersebut adalah dalem bentuk format dan isi kandungan yang sama. Sebahagian isinya tidak menepati kehendak rayuan kerana mengandungi parkara yang terkeluar daripada isu yang direka khas untuk tujuan ini.” (p.110)
• in the section on Pahang state, “Rayuan daripada perayu dan penyokong sebuah parti pembangkang di Raub mempunyai unsure perkauman yang jelas.”(p.122)
• in the section on Selangor state, “Dalam hubungan ini sebuah parti pembangkang secara terang menetang pengwujudan bahagian-bahagian pilihanraya mengikut garis panduan yang ditetapkan oleh SPR, yang sedikit sebanyak telah memberi ‘weightage’ kepada faktor luas kawasan yang terdapat di dalam kawasan-kawasan luar Bandar untuk mengurangkan kesukaran wakil-wakil rakyat untuk sampai kepada pengundi-pengundi.” (p.132)
• in the section on Wilayah Persekutuan Kualal Lumpur. “Isi kandungan rayuan dari parti tertentu mengandungi hal-hal yang umun yang dibangkitkan oleh parti yang sama bagi negeri-negeri lain diseluruh Semenanjung Malaysia, seolah-olah ianya dikeluarkan oleh orang yang sama untuk diedarkan.” (p.139), and so on.
In the summary of its comments and decisions to the DAP objections in the various states that ‘Sempadan bahagian pilihanraya diubah untuk memeuaskan nafsu politik parti yang memerintah’, the Election Commission response include the following:
• “Ini adalah dakwaan palsu Kerala tiada bukti kukuh yang menunjukkan SPR menerima arahan dari mana-mana pihak”;
• “Ini satu tuduhan karut, berasaskan pandangan politiknya sahaja”;
• “Soal memuaskan nafsu politik pihak pemerintah tidak timbul, kerana semua pihak diberi peluang yang sama untuk bertanding dalam kawasan pilihanraya yang disediakan”;
• “Ini satu tuduhan palsu kerana SPR tidak pernah menegah sebarang parti bertanding di mana sahaja kawasan yang mereka sukai”; and
• “Cadangan persempadanan baru adalah terbuka luas untuk semua pihka bertanding. Oleh itu, soal memeuaskan nafsu politik pemerintah tidak timbal. Tuduhan liar seperti ini mempunyai motif politik yang tebal.”
Are these adequate and proper responses by the Election Commission to the serious charge that the redelineation exercise are to serve the political interest of the ruling parties, and in particular UMNO, to consolidate it s political power position in government?
How can this charge of gerrymandering eith the consituencies be answered by claiming that all political parties arefree to contest in the constituencies?
What evidence are needed to show the political influence of the ruling parties on the Elelction Commission’s redelineation exercise?
Before the 1990 general elections, I produced documentary proof in Parliament to show that the Election Commission was operating under an UMNO directive in its snap voters’ registration campaign in February 1990. Isn’t this proof of UMNO interference and manipulation as provided under the Constitution.
I accept that in its review of the redelineation of th eelectoral constituencies, the Election Commission had at no stage discussed or consulted with the Opposition parties.
Proof of UMNO influence and input in the Election Commission redelineation exercise which is denied the Opposition
But does the Election Commission want Parliament and Malaysians to believe that the Election Commission had at no stage in its constituency redelineation review discussed with UMNO leaders at both national and state levels as to how best to serve UMNO’s electoral interest in the next general elections?
It is of course virtually impossible to get evidence of such prior discussions and consultation between the Election Commission and the ruling parties, as they are normally conducted in secret?
Sometimes, however, slips sre made, and the public get an indication of such improper goings-on. The Star of 3rd April 1991, for instance, carried a report under the heading ‘Move to have more Parliament, state seats’ which states:
“Kuantan, Tues. – Several UMNO divisions in Pahang have proposed the creation of at least four new parliamentary and 15 state constituencies in the redelineation exercise to be carried out by the Election Commission next year.
“The proposals by the divisions, which met separately recently, will be submitted to the state UMNO liaison committee for consideration.
“State UMNO Secretary and Deputy Menteri Besar Datuk Haji Abdul Jabbar Haji Ibrahim confirmed today that some proposals had been received and they would be studied carefully by the liaison committee before being forwarded to the Election Commission.”
This is proof of UMNO influence and input in the Election Commission redelineation exercise which is denied the Opposition.
It is clear that the Election Commission had not acted independently and fairly in being completely free from influence from the ruling parties, and in particular UMNO, in the redelineation exercise. This is also why its open, political and biased attacks on the DAP in its Report has only further undermined its independent and non-partisan character as provided for under the Constitution.
An Election Commission which is independent, fair and responsible would not dismiss the DAP’s objections to the redelineation proposals as a violation of the important and fundamental democratic principle of ‘one-man, one vote’ with responses such as “Prinsip ‘satu orang satu undi’ hanya ciptaan pihak berkenaan dengan tafsiran mereka sendiri”!
It is precisely because the Election Commission completely rejects the democratic principle of ‘one-man, one vote’ as a fundamental principle of its redelineation exercise that it has perpetuated one of the greatest inequalities and injustices of the Malaysian system of parliamentary democracy – the unfair and unjust weightage in the electoral system.
The new redelineation has increased further the ‘rural weightage’ as compared to the 1984 redelineation
The Merdeka Constitution accepted and endorsed the democractic principle of ‘one man one vote’ and this principle was written into the Constitution as the basis for constituency redelineations.
Let me put the record straight that the DAP is not against ‘rural weightage’ to take into account the disadvantages facing rural constituencies, but this measure of weightage must not be carried out to the extent of nullifying the ‘one-man one-vote’ principle.
This is why under Merdeka Constitution, which endorses the ‘one-man one-vote’ principle as well as the concept of ‘rural weightage’, it was provided that such rural weightage should not be a difference by more than 15 per cent in the number of electors of any constituency to the ‘electoral quota’ – which is obtained by dividing the number of electors in the country by the total number of constituencies.
We are prepared to agree to a rural weightage of 30 per cent or even 50 per cent, but what we have is a rural weightage of over 300 per cent which is completely unacceptable and most undemocractic.
This is why the principle of ‘one-man one-vote’ embedded in the Merdeka Constitution for the redelineation of electoral constituencies was repealed, and at present there is no ceiling whatsoever for such ‘rural weightage’.
In fact, the new redelineation of parliamentary constituencies has widened further the rural weightage as compared to the 1984 redelineation.
Under the new parliamentary redelineation for Peninsular Malaysia, the smallest electorate will be Langkawi with 19,520 voters compared to 69,422 voters for Klang seat – a weightage of 355 per cent!
In the 1984 redelineation exercise, the Largest weightage was 330 per cent – with Petaling Jaya having the largest electorate of 67,846 while Gua Muang has the smallest electorate with 20,503 voters.
An Election Commission which accept the democratic principke of ‘one-men one-vote’ will be instance, in Perak, Buntong will have 30,334 as compared to Kenering 11,056; in Pahang, Teras with 19,063 as compared to Luit with 7,819; in Selangor, Bandar Klang with 35,885 as compared to Sabak with 10,199; in Johore, Stulang with 35,248 as compared to Panti with 14,091.
Election Commission has very flimsy groud to create a new Langkawi parliamentary constituency with 19,528 voters when there is a stronger case to create a new parliamentary constituency out of Pangkor which has 21,748 voters
In this connection, the creation of Langkawi parliamentary constituency with only 19,528 voters must be challenged as the reasons given are very flimsy.
Pangkor in Perak would in fact have a stronger claim to be a Parliamentary constituency by itself on the Langkawi precedent, as it has a larger electorate with 21,748 voters.
Election Commission’s redelineation so politicized that it even engaged in political polemics with the previous PBS Sabah State Government
The highly politicized approach of the Election Commission in the redelineation exercise is even more evident in its recommendations with regard to the Sabah constituencies, where it even entered into political polemics with the then PBS State Government.
Thus, in its comments about objections to the Sabah constituency redelineations, the Sabah Report said:
“Rayuan-rayuan itu kebanyakkan mnegandungi hujjah-hujjah politik dan menekankan faktor-faktor bersabit dengan kepentingan kaum, suku kaum, kebudayaan dan agama. Jelas daripada surat-surat rayuan itu terdapat sentimen-sentimen politik kepartian yang tebal dan kandungan rayuan tekah dibuat secara yang dirancangkan oleh pihak tertentu.”
The Election Commission has the following specific comments about the memorandum from the then PBS State Government:
a) Kerajaan Negeri telah membuat analis apolitik menerusi pecahan-pecahan kaum dan agama bagi tiap-tiap kawasan dan merasia bahawa apa yang dicadangkan oleh SPR tidak sesuai dengan rancangan parti politik yan gmenerajui Kerajaan Negeri Sabah. Banyak di perkatakan mengenai perpaduan kaum, integrasi kaum dan integrasi nasional dan sebagainya, Jelas pendapat Kerajaan Negeri Sabah dari segi ini jauh berbeza dengan pendapat SPR.
b) Dari sudut pandangan SPR unsur-unsur dengan perpaduan kaum dan intefrasi nasional hádala perkara-perkara yang harus dimaksukkan di dalam program-program pembangunan masyarakat oleh permerintah. Perpaduan tidak boleh dicapai menerusi persempadanan pilihanraya.
c) Jelas dari segi isi kandunganny bantahan dan rayuan Kerajaan Negeri mengandungi unsur-unsur yang berbentuk perkauman dan sentimen agama serta politik kepartian. Kebimbangan kerajaan dan wakil rakyat yang ada dikemukakan sebagai kebimbangan masyarakat seluruh negeri Sabah.
In its specific comments, the Election Commission even took sides in the dispute between the Federal Government and the then PBS State Government, when it made the following comment: “Jika rakyat Sabah tidak dihasut supaya membencikan Kerajaan Pusat SPR percaya integrasi Nasional akan wujud”!
Instead of becoming an advocate of the Barisan Nasional Federal Government on the issue of national integration vis-à-vis Sabah, the Election Commission would be more true to its constitutional duties if it had steered clear of such controversies, especially as in its Report on Peninsular redelineation, it had made the following admission:
“Keadaan masyarakat Malaysia yang berbilang kaum telah mewujudkan berbagai bentuk kebudayaan, adapt resam dan cara hidup yang mempunyai cirri-ciri perbezaan yang nyata di mana tiap-tiap kaum itu tinggal dalam kelompok-kelompok yang boleh dikenalpasti dengan keadaan geografi dan juga activiti ekonomi masyarakat di kawasan berkenaan….
“Dengan adanya keadaan seperti ini maka wujudlah pula bentuk-bentuk polarizáis kaum yang juga terpaksa dijelmakan dalam bahagian-bahagian pilihanraya yang diwujudkan. Hakikat ini tidak dapat dielakkan, bahkan ia menjadi suatu reality yang mungkin memeakan masa yang lama untuk diubah.”
The Election Commission Report on Sabah said that its recommendations have the following repercussions:
• a) Menggugat kedudukan parti politik tertentu di dalam percaturan politik di Negeri Sabah;
• b) Menggugat kedudukan wakil-wakil rakyat tertentu di dalam bahagian pilihanraya masing-masing;
• c) menjejas peluang orang-orang yang berhasrat untuk mengambil bahagian yang aktif di dalam bahagian pilihanraya khususnya menjadi wakil-wakil rakyat dan sebagainya;
• d) Memperlihatkan sikap yang kurang sensitive dengan keperluan masyarakat berbagai kaum untuk mendapat peluang representasi mengikut kecamata dan kehendak peerayu.
Is the Election Commisssionprepared to ask itself this question: What would be the reaction of the Federal Government if its redelineation proposals shake the entire basis of political power of UMNO in Malaysia?
Of course, the Eelction Commission would not be allowed to get that far, but it should be sensitive to reactions to its redelineation proposals which radically changes the whole basis of electoral power.
I understand that the Election Commission’s proposals for the Sabah state constituencies change the entire basic of Sabah state politics, changing the present distribution of 28 Kadazan seats, 12 Malay seats and 8 Chinese seats in Sabah to 27 Malay seats, 18 Kadazan seats and 3 chinese seats.
If this is the case, it may be understandable for the intensity of the response for both the former PBS State Government and various Sabah petitioners to the Election Commission’s redelineation proposals.
This may be the reason that there is speculation that the Sabah Assembly would be dissolved together with the dissolution of Parliament so that a simultaneous national general elections and the Sabah Yang di Pertua.
The Election Commission cannot therefore behave as if its redelineation recommendations exist in a political vacumm, and do not have great repercussions not only on power situations in the country, but also a great bearing on the development of a healthy democratic system.
Bias of Election Commission which lack the objectivity required of an independent body
I had said that the Election Commission’s redelineation report is biased and lacking the objectivity required of an independent body. I refer in particular to the Election Commission’s comments on Pahang which accused the DAP’s supporters and appellants in Raub as being racialistic’, which sates:
“Rayuan daripada perayu dan penyokong sebuah parti pembangkang di Raub mempunyai unsur perkauman yang jelas. Wakil parti itu tidak mahu misalnya kawasan Felda yang kebanyakannya terdiri dari pengundi Melayu dimasukkan untuk menjadi sebahagian daripada kawasan Bandar Raub di mana pihaknya mempunyai markas yang kuat. Sebaliknya mereka memeohan supaya satu kawasan kampong baru dimasukkan ke Raub kerana kawasan itu mempunyai pengundi Cina hamper keseluruhannya.”
I have checked and ascertained that this is a very distorted version of what happened. The memorandum was to ask for Felda Krau to be transferred out from Teras to Dong state assembly seat, and for Sungai Lui new village to be brought back to Teras from Batu Talam state assembly seat. The reasons were that the new redelineation would remove part of Sungai Lui with 1,600 voters to Bukit Talam. As far Felda Krau schemes, they had never been part of Teras State Assembly seat.
Election Commission does not deny the electoral abuses of postal ballots but claims that it is helpless to rectify abuses
It is most unfortunate that the Election Commission in its report should try to communalise this issue – another example of its failure to maintain an objective and detached stance from political controversies!
In the local inquiries held by the Election Commission, one of the issues raised by the DAP concerned one main reason why the Malaysian electoral system is not fair, free, democratic and clean –namely, the abuses of the postal ballots.
The Election Commission does not deny the abuses of the postal ballot system which gave the ruling coalition the advantages to turn defeats in many constituencies into victories, but claims that it is helpless to prevent these abuses and it even invented false distinctions to justify its inaction on the issue.
For instance, the Report said:
“Di samping itu ada juga perkara-perkara yang terkeluar daripada tujuan asal persempadanan ini dititikberatkan seperti bangkangan mereka terhadap apa yang mereka menafsirkan sebagai auatu salahlaku apabila anggota bersenjata dan juga polis, menerusi undang-undang yang sah, telah dibenarkan untuk mengundi melalui pos, yang mengikut mereka kesemu dipaksa untuk mengundi bagi parti pemerintah. Mereka ini nampaknya terkeliru di antara dua factor yang berbeza itu cara (method) pengudian dengan corak (manner) pembuangan undi oleh pengundi-pengundi. Faktor kedua yang dibangkitkan hádala perkara yang diluar bidang kuasa SPR untuk mengatasinya. Pihak ini telah menyarankan supaya undi pos itu dihapuskan walaupun mereka memeang mengetahui bahawa kemudahan yang diberikan ini hádala suatu kemudahan yang diberikan kepada semua golongan pengundi pos disemua negara diseluruh dunia.”
DAP has not gone to the length of the Election Commission as to propose to abolition of postal ballots. The Election Commission cannot abdicate from its responsibility to conduct a fair, free and honest elections by claiming that since its proposal to abolish postal ballots had been ignored, it could do nothing to stop abuses of postal ballots.
The distinction that the Election Commission is trying to make, between the method and manner of voting, claiming that it is only responsible for the method and not the manner of voting, is a false one.
The total electorate increased by 93 per cent between the 1974 and 1990 general elections, but postal ballots increased by 400 per cent!
A responsible Election Commission which takes its constitutional duty seriously to conduct fair, free and honest general elections would take all steps to stamp out electoral abuses, whether in the method or manner of the voting process.
DAP is not opposed to the provision of postal ballots for army or police personnel who could not physically cast their votes in their kampongs and home-towns where they are registered because they are on duty elsewhere.
However, in recent years, the postal ballots had been issued to police and armed forces personnel who are serving in the very same constituencies they are staying, and furthermore, postal ballots are issued to their family members who should be casting their votes by the ordinary process on polling day like other voters.
There has been a fantastic increase in postal ballots since the last five general elections since 1974.
In the 1974 general electons, there were 48,861 postal ballots out of a total electorate of 4,130,032, but in the 1990 general elections, there were 196,388 postal ballots out of 7,958,640 total electorate.
This means that the total electorate had increased by 93 per cent between the 1974 and 1990 general elections, but postal ballots had increased by 400 per cent – which is not supported by the expansion of the police and armed forces in the 16-year period.
As the body responsible for conducting fair, free and clean general elections, the Election Commission should introduce legislation to regulate postal ballots to firstly, restrict them only to services personnel who because they are on duty in another area could not return to the constituency they are registered to cast their vote; and secondly, ensure that there is proper supervision of the casting of the postal ballot to ensure the secrecy of voting by both the Election Commission and contesting political parties or candidates so that no pressure or intidimation is brought to bear.
If the Election Commission does not have the authority to introduce by-laws and regulations on postal balloting without having to get the ‘green light’ from the government, then this is itself proof that the Election Commission is not an independent body as intended by the Malaysian Constitution, and why it could not enjoy the confidence of the public as well as of all Opposition parties.
DAP rejects the redelineation proposals as they have failed Vision 2020 in not redressing undemocratic practices or rectifying political inequalities and injustices
As the first constituency redelineation exercise after the announcement of Vision 2020, the Election Commission should have as their main objectives in the redelineation, the redressal of undemocratic practices and the rectification of political inequalities and injustices – as to give greater meaning to the democratic principle of ‘one-man one-vote’ and reduce the great disparity in the rural weightage to 15 per cent band as envisaged in the Merdeka Constitution of 1957.
The Election Commission has done the opposite, and the disparity in the distribution of voters among the parliamentary constituencies is even greater than the previous redelineation in the 1984 exercise.
DAP therefore rejects the redelineation proposals as they had failed Vision 2020 as it has not started the process to redress undemocratic practices and rectify political inequalities and injustices in the electoral system in the country.
Before I end, I must stress that as the redelineation of the electoral constituencies affect State Assembly seats, the Election Commission’s proposals should be presented to the various State Assemblies for discussion and adoption as well.
Although the Constitution is silent on this, state Assembly rights can only be respected if such a practice is adopted by all State Governments.