Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the meeting of the Perak DAP State Committee on the voters’ registration exercise held in Ipoh on Saturday, 25th June 1994 at 5 p.m.
Election Commission should convene an all-party round-table conference to draw up a Code for Free, Fair and Clean General Elections which should also bind the mass media – both printed and electronic
Election Commission Chairman, Datuk Harun Din, told the press yesterday that it was up to the Opposition parties to make representations with the Government to change laws if they want to get equal access to the mass media, in particular the electronic media, during general elections.
Datuk Harun Din said that the question of free and fair mass media access to the Opposition parties during the general elections is not a matter of concern to the Election Commission.
This attitude is most disappointing and even shocking. How can the Election Commission Chairman ever suggest that the conduct of a free, fair and clean general elections is none of the business of the Election Commission?
The time has come for the Election Commission to abandon its narrow definition of its constitutional mandate and adopt a broader interpretation of the letter and spirit of the Malaysian Constitution to be responsible for the conduct of free, fair and clean general elections.
Article 114 of the Malaysian Constitution made it very clear that in the appointment of Election Commission members, the most important regard is the importance of securing an Election Commission which enjoys public confidence.
How can an Election Commission which adopts a narrow definition of its mandate and does not regard as its concern the conduct of free, fair and clean honest general elections secure the confidence of the public?
An Election Commission which stands idly by, while the mass media particularly radio and television are manipulated and even denied to the Opposition and money politics are practised at a massive scale to buy votes, cannot secure public confidence for the Election Commission as being true to its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean general elections.
The Election Commission should fulfil its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean general, elections by convening an all-party round-table conference to draw up a Code For Free, Fair and Clean General Elections – which should bind not only all contesting political parties and candidates, but the mass media, both electronic and printed, as well as other agencies involved in the general elections.
Is next month’s voters’ registration exercise an UMNO ruse to mislead the Opposition into thinking that general elections would not be held in the next few months?
Many have asked whether next month’s voters’ registration exercise is an UMNO ruse to mislead the Opposition into thinking that general elections would not be held in the next few months, as those who register next month would not be able to vote unless general elections are held next year.
I personally believe that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, has not made up his final decision as to whether to call for general elections in the next few months or early next year.
The results of the 21-day voters’ registration exercise from July 11 to 31 will be an important factor in this decision by Mahathir.
If in the 21-day voters’ registration exercise, UMNO achieves its target to register 400,000 new voters from its members and supporters, while the Opposition disregards the voters’ registration exercise believing that general elections would be held in the next few months, then Mahathir would have very strong reasons to defer general elections until the 400,000 new UMNO voters could exercise their right to vote early next year.
There is no doubt that UMNO at all levels would be allowed to take part in the voters’ registration exercise, while such facilities would be denied to the Opposition.
This would be another example why the Election Commission has not been able to maintain its independent role free from the dictates of UMNO and the Barisan Nasional Government so as to secure public confidence as stipulated in the Malaysian Constitution.
There are about one million voters who are eligible to be voters but who have not registered on the electoral register. However, UMNO is only interested in its target group of 40.0,000 members and supporters.
If the Election Commission is independent, then it should provide the facilities for a 100 per cent registration of all eligible voters – and the least, it should do is to extend, the unusual and short 21-day voters’ registration exercise to the normal 42-day period.