by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, September 6, 1994:
DAP supports Election Commission proposal that it be empowered to ensure free and fair mass media coverage during general elections campaign.
DAP fully supports the Election Commission that it be empowered to ensure free and fair mass media during the general elections campaign.
The Election Commission Secretary, Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, in a working paper on “Transparency of Electoral Process and the Media” in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, disclosed that, the Election Commission had submitted proposals to the Government to empower the Election Commission to ensure that all political parties have access to State-owned media and fair coverage by the print media which, are mostly privately-owned during the general elections
The new powers to ensure ‘free, fair and clean’ gener¬al elections which the Election Commission wants, includes powers:
* to determine a fair and balanced programme for political broadcasts and advertisements through State-owned media for all political parties in elections;
* to regulate and stop abuses over the use of State-owned media when reports and programmes gave clear advantages of campaign issues and informa¬tion to the ruling party; and
* to draw the line between campaign information and vital Government information which can or cannot be printed and broadcast.
One important reason why general elections in Malaysia had failed to measure up to the yardstick of ‘fair, free and clean’ general elections is because of the denial of mass media access, particularly the electronic media of radio and television, to the Opposition and the failure of the printed media to give fair coverage to all political parties.
I commend, the Election Commission Secretary, Datuk Abdul Rashid, for owning up to this great defect in the Malaysian electoral process.
I hope the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, would be responsive to the proposals by the Election Commission to ensure fair and balanced mass media coverage for all political parties in the next general elections, which is one of the most important components of ‘fair, free and clean’ gener¬al elections.
The Commonwealth Observer Group which monitored the 1990 general elections, for instance, highlighted the lack of press freedom and equal access to the mass media for the Opposition as one of the most undemocratic aspects of the general elections in Malaysia.
Election Commission’s constitutional responsibility is not just to conduct general elections but to conduct a ‘fair, free and clean’ general elections.
The Election Commission has the constitutional duty to conduct general elections in Malaysia, and as the Constitution upholds a democratic system of government, it clearly implies that the general elections conducted by the Election Commission should be democratic by being ‘fair, free and clean’.
The Election Commission’s constitutional mandate and responsibility is therefore not just to conduct general elections, but to conduct a ‘free, fair and clean’ general elections or it would have, if ailed and abdicated from its constitutional responsibility.
In accordance with its constitutional mandate and responsibillity to conduct ‘free, fair and clean’ general elections, there should be no need for the Election Commission to submit any proposals to the Government to ensure fair and balanced mass media coverage in general elections.
What the Election Commission should do is to gazette regulations on “Free and Fair Mass Media Coverage in General Elections”, incorporating the proposals outlined by Rashid, which should have the immediate effect of general election, by-laws.
If the Election Commission cannot draft and gazette election by-laws without having to get the approval
of the Government of the day, then where is the independence and autonomy of the Election Commission?
Election Commission should convene All-Party Conference on how to make next general elections the most ‘fair, free and clean’ in Malaysian history.
The Election-Commission should convene an All-Party Conference to discuss how the next general elections can become ‘the’ most ‘fair, free and clean’ in Malaysian history as well as to wipe, out all forms of electoral abuses – dealing not only with mass media coverage but with every department of the electoral process and the general elections campaign.
The consensus reached at the All-Party Conference should be the basis for the Election Commission to draft new election by-laws, to ensure ‘fair, free and clean’ general elections, without having to refer back to the Cabinet for any approval.
For the larger national interest to ensure that the next general elections will be the most ‘fair, free and clean’ in history, the DAP is prepared to co-operate with the Election Commission as well as the Barisan Nasional parties.