Sorry, You Don’t Convince Me Ambiga

Questioning BERSIH.

By now, you must have read about how BERSIH and its coalition partners in the opposition plans to do street demonstration in Kuala Lumpur with more than 100,000 “yellowish” people this coming saturday. They triumphantly claim to have a cause and come 9th July, the King must be told about it.

When asked to justify the illegal street demo, the supporters of the demonstration will immediately go into a predictable knee-jerk reaction. You will get instant lectures on the virtue of unbridled democratic rights and occasional snide look of you being ignorant of the truth.

They will tell you how the good-for-nothing SPR conspiring with the government to include dead people in the electoral roll. They get agitated when told that SPR is not to be blamed. How many of us take the trouble to report to SPR directly when our relative died? How is it that we waste no time to inform the bank, insurance company, police, EPF and even loan sharks but not SPR? The reality is we tend to put off reporting to SPR because it is a 5 year thing. We hear people say, “What’s the rush? The dead ain’t gonna vote anyway”. Little do people know that SPR is not allowed under the law to remove the names of dead people without official proof!

I met JPN officers yesterday. They confessed that the number of people, especially in the rural areas, who fail to report death in their family is a lot. With this kind of lackadaiscal attitude, I wonder why BERSIH blames SPR instead of the lazy and indifferent Malaysians.

The same thing with allegation of multiple persons registered under a single address. I suspect one of the reasons is that people use rented house addresses when they register to vote. Unfortunately, when they move out from their rented addresses, they fail to notify SPR. Subsequent tenants then use the same house address to register as voters. I remember when I moved into a rented condo in Kuala Lumpur in 1993. I kept receiving the previous tenant’s letters including bank statements and government official letters until the day I moved out 3 years later just because he did not change his address with the relevant parties!

In the case of alleged phantom voters registered in the house of  YB Azmin Ali’s mother, I find it rather amusing that of all the millions of houses in the country, SPR had to  pick the house belonging to the mother of the of loudest and most vocal  opposition leaders to plant phantom voters. Very funny indeed.

Another BERSIH’s contentious issue is the postal votes. Firstly, the name postal vote is somewhat a misnomer. There is no such thing as postal vote for the police, armed forces and the civil servants who work as election officers during the poll. They do not mail out their votes through the postal system. All of them vote in advance, watched over closely by representatives from all contesting parties. Postal voters vote in private booths just like all of us normal voters. The popular belief, spun by the opposition, that their superiors will be looking over their shoulders to check who they vote for is a fallacy.  The representatives of the candidates will be there to ensure that does not happen. Unless of course, they fall asleep on the job!

Some leaders of BERSIH also want counting of the postal votes on the same day citing possiblities of tempering if counted later. It is not a practical idea because the result will influence the voting pattern during normal polling day. In any case, there have been instances where the opposition got more postal votes compared to BN. Case in point, Teluk Kemang by election in 2000. If BERSIH worries about the integrity of the postal bags while in the authority’s custody, then they should request opposition representatives presence in the lock up where the bags are kept. I guess staring at the bags for 3 days non-stop is a small price to pay to ensure the sanctity of the heavily guarded, locked and sealed  postal votes bags.

It is true that most of the time postal votes tend to be in favour of the BN. But this is not surprising at all and can be easily explained. Why would they vote for a party that has been constantly demonising, humiliating, cursing and crticising them? They are also humans with feelings and dignity.

Bersih also wants armed forces personnel and police officers, who are not directly involved in the election, to vote through the normal process like civilians do. They say it is unneccesary for them to vote in advance. I disagree.

One of the most critical days for the nation, where it is at its most vulnerable to chaos and subversive elements, is on polling day where no effective civilian authority is in place. On polling day , the military and police forces are at their highest alert for any untoward incidence which could compromise the nation’s security.

So for BERSIH to suggest that the military and police personnel abandon their posts – whether it is in the deep jungle of the interior, far flung islands, air and naval bases, remote border control check points and strategic command centres, is nothing short of being irresponsible! The readiness of our forces to ensure nation’s security cannot be compromised at all.

Some may say that I am over exaggerating the potential security threat to the nation during polling day. Maybe. But if it does happen, I rather have our men in uniform to quickly scramble the Sukhois, the MiGs, the F18s and sail out the Frigates, Corvettes and the Subs to intercept enemies. It can only be done if they are at their bases not when they spend time queing in line to vote in Grik, Batang Berjuntai, Lubok Antu or Long Pasia!

Bersih also demand the postal votes to be extended to Malaysians who live away (domestically) from their voting constituency. For example a Sabahan who lives and works in Kuala Lumpur but registered as voter in Kota Belud, Sabah.

In my opinion, a person registered as a voter in Kota Belud but chooses to live and work in Kuala Lumpur has no business to determine who should be the local Wakil Rakyat for the people of Kota Belud! He should be voting for a Wakil Rakyat in Kuala Lumpur who is in a better postion to address issues affecting his life there! It will not be fair to the local residents of Kota Belud if an “outsider” living in Kuala Lumpur is trying to force his choice of candidate to them when it is them who have to deal with the Wakil Rakyat on a daily basis.

By the way, isn’t asking more people to be under postal vote system somehow contradicts BERSIH’s earlier allegation that postal vote system is riddled with procedural problems which lead to suspicion of fraud?

On the use of indelible ink, SPR has explained in great details about its concern on its usage. My personal concern on use of indelible ink is related to the legalities.

Does SPR have the power, under the current Elections Act 1958, to deny a person whose finger has been inked from voting, but who now claims his finger was inked forcibly? What happens if that person insists to vote by citing his rights under the constitution, finger inked or not? Will we see chaotic scenes at the polling centres?

These are simple questions but with great consequences if not clearly defined. That is why, instead of street demonstation, BERSIH should propose amendments to the Elections Act in Parliament! Even if a million yellows turn up for the street demonstration, the demand cannot be fulfilled without amending the Elections Act to make it more specific and clearer.

The same goes to automatic registration of voters. It is no better than the current all year round open-registration excercise. It also requires the Election Act to be amended to incorporate the provision. Anyway, when a person decides not to register as voter, isn’t he merely exercising his democratic right? Why is BERSIH denying him of his right not to register when BERSIH is coming to town to champion the people’s democratic rights?

I have no problem with BERSIH’s demand that campaign period to be atleast 21 days. But what I find odd is BERSIH failure to see that the opposition is enjoying a 365 days, 24/7, nation-wide-non-stop campaign blitz since 2008.

As for the claim of vote buying during election,  I hope Ambiga realizes that the  guys marching next to her on the 9th of July are quite experts in it. Everyone knows that in the midst of the Hulu Selangor by election in April last year, Anwar Ibrahim promised 100,000 land titles to poor homeowners in the constituency (Source: The Malaysian Insider, 13 April 2010). This was followed quickly by Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s announcement to abolish quit-rents for shop houses in Hulu Selangor (Source: New Straits Times, 20 April 2010) as well as presenting bonuses amounting to RM6116,000 to all village chiefs and Jawatankuasa Keselamatan dan Kemajuan Kampung (JKKK) in Hulu Selangor (Source: SelangorKini Online, 21 April 2010).

And I hope Ambiga will not forget the ultimate mother of all vote buying act: Nik Aziz’s campaign promise of heaven if you vote for PAS!

With all these brouhaha about allegation of election irregularities in Malaysia , I wonder how other countries are doing. Do other countries around the world face issues and allegations of electoral irregulartities? Is the problem unique to Malaysia?

Going through the internet, I found out that in October last year, the Registrar Of Electors in New Zealand removed from its electoral roll 306 names of people who did not reside at the addresses on their enrolment forms. In Auckland, the ROE were investigating 90 voters who had been enrolled as living in two houses in Pembroke St and Puhinui Rd.

In Venezuela, the National Electoral Council was informed of doubtful existence of 39,000 voters whose age were 100 years and above. In Spain, The Electoral Census Bureau received complaints on discrepancies on the so-called ‘padrons’ of 22 towns in Malaga and a further 16 in Granada.

And in the United States of America, complaints were lodged on voters disenfranchisement when Republican Party was allegedly purging African-Americans names from voters’ lists in the 2004 Presidential election in favour of George Bush. And of course who could forget when US Commission on Civil Rights declared that election process in Florida, during the US Presidential Election 2000, was riddled with serious irregularities.

Two interesting points can be deduced from the above stories. Firstly, statistically speaking, just like any massive databases, electoral rolls will not be 100% error free even when Anwar Ibrahim is the Prime Minister. It is not statistically possible. There is always what statisticians refer to as allowable sampling error which in no way affects the integrity of the whole list. Secondly, in instances above, the complainants lodge reports to their respective election authorities and allow investigations to be conducted. They do not resort to massive street demonstrations.

My last point in this article is a question that I would like to pose to the KLites. Are you ready for frequent street demonstrations in the heart of Kuala Lumpur? Are you ready for the inconveniences? I am afraid that will be the norm if BERSIH is allowed to start. You cannot allow BERSIH and deny others from marching down the Bukit Bintang road every weekend for a cause they believe in. You risk being called hypocrites.

Abdul Rahman Dahlan is the Member of Parliament for P169 Kota Belud. He tweets at @mpkotabelud. This post was previously published on his blog.

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Abdul Rahman Dahlan is the Member of Parliament for P169 Kota Belud. He blogs at and tweets at @mpkotabelud.

Posted on 4 July 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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