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Thursday, June 30, 2011

‘Using indelible ink is a backward practice’

The Election Commission explained why some of Bersih's demands could not be met and why in some instances it had no power to act.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Election Commission (EC) has finally broken its silence over the Bersih 2.0 rally to explain the complexities behind fulfilling Bersih’s eight demands.

In a luncheon entitled “Bersih’s demands – What is EC’s explanation?” EC deputy chairman, Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, began by expressing regret that Bersih had opted for this path instead of continuing further negotiations with the EC.

“I daresay representatives of both Bersih and EC were satisfied with the outcome of the talks last November,” he told a crowd of about a hundred people this morning. “Back then Bersih had 17 recommendations which we went over in detail and provided an explanation for each one.”

“In January (Bersih chairman) Ambiga (Sreenevasan) requested for another round of talks but we asked that it held after the Sarawak state election.”

“The next thing we knew a Bersih rally was being planned for July 9. And what were once recommendations had now become demands.”

Indelible ink is backward practice

According to Wan Ahmad, Bersih’s demand that indelible ink be used to prevent voter fraud would make a mockery of Malaysia’s development, not to mention spark chaos on election day.

“Countries that use indelible ink are countries like Indonesia, India, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” he pointed out. “These are countries with more than double the population size of Malaysia and where not all its citizens own identification cards.”

“These countries are not up to our level so why should we adopt their system? This is a choice between progression and regression.”

Wan Ahmad also raised the possibilty of voters not wanting their fingers inked and questioned if they would then be barred from voting.

“Disqualifying them would go against their rights,” he said. “I also heard that indelible ink can be easily obtained from Thailand. What if voters ink their fingers themselves before casting their vote? Can you imagine the chaos that will erupt when they are barred from voting?”

He added that the reason behind this demand was a concern that one voter would cast two votes and insisted that this was almost impossible.

“A voter is only registered under one MyKad number and can’t use two different numbers to vote twice,” he asserted. “Furthermore we will soon be introducing a bio-metric system to match a voter’s thumbprint to that on his MyKad. With these measures indelible ink is unnecessary.”

EC has no right to relocate voters

On Bersih’s demand for an electoral roll clean-up that included removing the names of deceased voters, Wan Ahmad stated that this is highly dependent on the family of the deceased.

He explained that unless the family reported the death to the Registration Department the deceased would remain on the electoral roll. This, he added, was a problem in rural areas and East Malaysia where people neglect to register births, what more deaths.

“Reporting a death isn’t a top priority unless the deceased has a will,” he said to laughter from the crowd. “It’s not a laughing matter, it’s reality. But the minute the Registration Department’s system is updated so is ours.”

Wan Ahmad also refuted allegations that voters were being moved to different constituencies without their knowledge.

“EC is not allowed to do that,” he insisted. “If that voters no longer lives at the address on his MyKad and wants to register to vote in a different constituency, then he has to send in an application to do so.”

“We don’t move people around at our whims and fancies. And we will soon have a system whereby the head of the house can key in his MyKad number and view the voters registered under that address.”

Automatic registration contradicts democracy

Wan Ahmad also ruled out the possiblity of automatic voter registration on the basis of upholding an individual’s freedom of choice. He also said that it would involve amending Article 119 of Constitution which would be an ardous process.

“Those who wrote the constitutions, placed importance of freedom of choice whether or not to vote.” he said. “We don’t practice mandatory voting in this country.”

“Democracy also requires intelligent people. Automatic registration would enable even a mad man to cast his vote which will not contribute anything to the process.”

Qouting a survey conducted by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia on the reason behind the large number of eligible but unregistered voters, Wan Ahmad noted that the answer lay in their attitude.

“Most of those surveyed said their were either lazy or indifferent,” he said. “So if these people are automatically registered they won’t take the election process seriously at all.”

No need for longer campaign period

Wan Ahmad deemed the demand for a longer campaign period as unnecessary considering Malaysia’s size and the social media’s reach.

He said that the 21-day period as requested by Bersih only made sense for countries like Indonesia due to its vastness and huge voter base.

“We feel that the current seven or 14 day timeframe is reasonable,” he stated. “We are a developed country and even voters in the rural areas are aware of the policies of each political party.”

“There has never been a voter who has asked for a longer campaign period in order to understand what (opposition leader) Anwar (Ibrahim) or (PAS spiritual Leader) Nik Aziz (Nik Mat) stand for.”

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