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Friday, July 29, 2011

No way we can go against the system, says EC

Conceding that electoral reforms lie heavily on the political will of the BN government, the Election Commission (EC) however refused to use en bloc resignation as a way to pressure the ruling party to accept its reform proposals.

NONE“You are asking too much. You've got to be reasonable here. We are working within the system,” said EC deputy chairperson Wan Ahmad Wan Omar (left) during a public forum at Petaling Jaya today.

He was responding to the challenge of the Bar Council's Human Rights Committee chairman Andrew Khoo which demanded all the commissioners to resign if their proposals were rejected by the government.

His reply was met with a loud “no” from some 300 members of public who attended the forum entitled 'The Election Laws, Election Commission and Electoral Reform' organised by the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham).

“If you put a former judge in the EC, maybe he can push for whatever reforms. But with the current system, he needs to work within the system,” Wan Ahmad said.

NONELike the electoral reform forum held on Tuesday, in which Wan Ahmad was booed and heckled by a hostile crowd, the role and power of the EC in ensuring clean and fair elections was again hotly debated in today's forum.

The EC number two reiterated that his commission had submitted various proposals to the government but whether they will be translated into laws will still depend on the government's policy.

“Please understand this is the system and we can have no way to go against the system.

“This is the system in Malaysia... the attorney-general will draft the bill only when they get the signal from the government,” he stressed.

'We don't have seats in Parliament'

Comparing the EC in Australia, which was given a seat in the Parliament to present its bills and views, Wan Ahmad said that it is the minister who tables the bills in Malaysia.

“We don't have seats in Parliament to debate our proposal. Definitely they (government) won't allow it because this is our system.”

NONEHis statement did not go down well with the crowd including Proham executive committee member KC Vohrah (right), who argued that the law amendment process should be the other way round.

The former judge, who once served in the AG's Chambers, said that it should be the EC that drafts the bill and lobbies the AG's Chambers to accept it.

“When I was in the (AG's) Chambers, they (government agency) came and argued, and sometimes we agreed with them,” he said.

Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan further pointed out that the federal constitution allows the election commissioners to enjoy the same status as a federal court judge.

“They are in a special position... but they don't believe it themselves. That's the frustration we have,” she said.

Ambiga explained that it was the frustration and disappointment with the EC's passiveness, coupled with its inaction on the many cases of irregularities occurred during the Sarawak state election, that prompted Bersih 2.0 to march on July 9.

“We don't have the luxury of time. The 13th general election is not far off,” she added.

NONEEven the moderator of the forum, Ramon Navaratnam (left), another Proham executive committee member, commented that the 'civil-servant mindset' of the election commissioners is one of the factors behind the EC's conservativeness.

“I think we must realise when you have former civil servants (appointed as election commissioners), most of them after 30 years in the civil service, tend not to displease the government of the day,” said Navaratnam, who is also a former civil servant.

Therefore he suggested that prominent individuals not from the civil service should be appointed as election commissioners.

All the seven current election commissioners appointed by the Agong under the advice of the prime minister are former senior civil servants. - Malaysiakini

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