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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Why suddenly so angry?

Anyway, the point to this story is that way back 25-30 years ago we were already very aware about gerrymandering, phantom voters, and whatnot. And when I say ‘we’ I mean those of us in the kampongs in Terengganu (those places you call ‘backward’ places where the ‘backward’ Malays live). And we tried to tell the more ‘advanced’ political leaders in the urban areas about this problem. But somehow they did not listen.
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
I first became involved in monitoring general elections about 25-30 years ago. At that time I was the Chairman of the local mosque in Kampong Kolam (in Kuala Ibai, Kuala Terengganu) and became a sort of de facto wakil rakyat (people’s representative) because of that.
I suppose it was because our local wakil rakyat (both the State Assemblyman as well as the Member of Parliament) were from Umno while our kampong was hard-core PAS that the kampong people came to me rather than to the Umno reps whenever they needed anything.
I had to sign as their references when they applied to enter a university. I had to sign as guarantor for their student loans. I had to negotiate with TNB to get electricity supply for the ‘illegal’ suarus (prayer halls) -- but ‘illegal’ only because the Umno wakil rakyat did not approve it. I had to contact the police station when their sons got arrested for cockfighting (a popular form of gambling in Terengganu). And many more types of community service that should have been done by the wakil rakyat but I had to do it instead since they were Umno and our kampong was PAS.
As I said, we were under an Umno State Assemblyman and an Umno Member of Parliament although ourkampong was hardcore PAS. In fact, the Umno wakil rakyat would not dare enter our kampong because if they did the kampong folks would throw stones at their cars. But how do we help PAS win in our area when because of gerrymandering Umno will always win the election?
That was when we realised the ‘power’ of gerrymandering. And that was 25-30 years ago. We knew we could not redraw the constituency boundaries and that Umno would always win in our area because of that. Hence, the next best alternative was to conquer or infiltrate the surrounding areas and turn them into PAS strongholds.
And to do this we needed, of course, to use religion, the weapon of PAS. So we built new mosques (and suraus) in those Umno areas to 'compete' with the ‘Umno’ mosques. Quite a bit of money was spent to set up these mosques, which were run by our PAS imamsbilals and ustaz.
The Terengganu State Government then declared these mosques as illegal mosques (masjid haram). But that just enhanced the image of these mosques because the holiest mosque in Islam is Masjidil Haram (the Haram Mosque) in Mekah, where the Ka’bah is located. Hence, according to the State Government, our mosques are 'at par' with the Mekah mosque (at least that was the propaganda we spread through the kampongs).
There were many attempts by the State Government to close down our mosques. They even tried to use the police to cordon the mosques to prevent the people from entering them. But all these attempts failed and soon PAS’s influences spread beyond Kampong Kolam to the surrounding Umno areas that were soon turned into PAS strongholds.
In time, we managed to kick out Umno and for the first time in a long time a PAS wakil rakyat took office in our area. Eventually, in 1999, the whole state fell to PAS. But it took almost 20 years for that to happen (and that may happen again in time to come -- maybe even in two months time if PAS plays its cards right in the Kuala Besut by-election).
So, we could not beat gerrymandering by redrawing the constituency boundaries because we did not have power and authority over the Election Commission (SPR). But we could beat gerrymandering by turning Umno areas into PAS areas. And that was how we did it in Terengganu although the process took a long time and after just one election we lost the state back to Umno (in 2004 -- due to the internal weaknesses of PAS rather than due to the strength of Umno)
Anyway, in that ‘historic’ 1980s election when Wan Mutalib Embong of PAS defeated Haji Abdul Mutalib of Umno to become the wakil rakyat of Batu Burok, we set up a sort of ‘vigilante force’ to make sure that ‘phantom voters’ do not infiltrate our area. Since it was a kampong where everyone knew everyone that was not too difficult. It was easy to detect ‘outsiders’ and prevent them from coming into our area.
As I was doing my rounds on Polling Day, the imam of Masjid Kolam came looking for me to ask me to help sort out a fight that was about to erupt between the local kampong folks and the policemen on duty at the polling station. I rushed to the place and saw a big crowd surrounding the very scared policemen in what was going to become a very ugly scene.
I asked the kampong folks what the problem was and they told me that the policemen were campaigning for Umno. I then asked the policemen why they were campaigning for Umno and they denied they were doing that.
The people were trying to rush in to vote and I just told them to line up, one of the policeman explained. Then suddenly they became hostile and wanted to beat us up.
Of course, they spoke to me in Bahasa.
Kami suruh dia orang masuk barisan kalau nak mengundi. Itu saja.”
The kampong folks then replied, “Kenapa kena masuk Barisan kalau nak undi. Kami orang PAS.”
Ah, so now we have come to the root of the problem. “Jangan suruh mereka masuk barisan,” I told the policemen who were clearly not from Terengganu. “Suruh mereka baratur.”
Masuk barisan’ is the ‘military’ term for line up. To the locals, line up means ‘beratur’ while ‘masuk barisan’ means to become a member of Barisan Nasional.
Anyway, the point to this story is that way back 25-30 years ago we were already very aware about gerrymandering, phantom voters, and whatnot. And when I say ‘we’ I mean those of us in the kampongs in Terengganu (those places you call ‘backward’ places where the ‘backward’ Malays live). And we tried to tell the more ‘advanced’ political leaders in the urban areas about this problem. But somehow they did not listen.
Soon after the ‘historic’ 1999 general election, which we felt the opposition should have won but did not, we tried to start a movement to oppose the SPR and to fight for electoral reforms. We even arranged for a delegation to meet the SPR to discuss this matter. Nevertheless, the opposition did not seem to put much interest in this.
When we saw that there was not going to be any electoral reforms we urged the opposition to boycott the 2004 general election. Of course, they would not because they thought they were going to do even better in 2004 than in the 1999 general election. And this time maybe even take five or six states (increased from the two in 1999) and maybe even get to form the new federal government. So why boycott the general election when they can instead win it?
But they did not win the 2004 general election. Instead, that was the worst general election for the opposition when Barisan Nasional won 91% of the Parliament seats with less than two-thirds of the votes. And instead of winning five or six states, they lost Terengganu and almost lost Kelantan.
After that ‘even more historic’ 2004 general election, we formed a committee and compiled all the evidence of fraud and filed election petitions in court. Imagine our disappointment when the opposition withdrew these election petitions in a deal with Barisan Nasional who also withdrew their petitions.
I then gave up. We can’t seem to make these people understand that we need both electoral and political reforms. That was when, in 2007, we decided to launch Bersih. Clearly we needed ‘to take matters into our own hands’. The opposition was not going to address this issue that for 25 years we have had to grapple with.
Then we ‘lost’ Bersih. The opposition hijacked Bersih and turned it into the fourth coalition member of Pakatan Rakyat. Bersih was never meant to be pro-opposition. It was supposed to be pro-electoral reforms. Now the very reason for the creation of Bersih has been tainted.
Today, there is so much ‘noise’ regarding this issue. I can see that the only reason for this noise is because the opposition believed it was going to win the recent general election and is shocked that it did not -- plus Anwar Ibrahim thought he was going to become the new Prime Minister but did not.
Where were all these people back in the 1980s -- and especially in 1999 and 2004 -- when we were attempting to address this issue? Why was there absolutely no interest? This is not a new problem. It is a very old problem that we tried to address for 30 years but could not get the support of the politicians.
In fact, Anwar Ibrahim knew about gerrymandering and phantom voters back in the days when he was in Umno because that was exactly how he came into power and held on to power. Now he speaks as if he is ‘shocked’ that all this is going on.
Please. This is a whole load of bullshit. If Anwar really wants to address this issue he should first of all return Bersih to the people and not use it as the fourth coalition member of Pakatan Rakyat. In fact, Anwar even decides who gets to lead Bersih. He appoints the Chairman of Bersih. Bersih is nothing but an ‘Anwar for Prime Minister’ movement.
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EC and that ink are a joke, so where’s the trust in the by-election? says Anwar
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has demanded that the Election Commission (EC) make no more "heroic" statements pledging to improve the quality of the indelible ink. The issue, he said, is beyond repair.
"The EC have been behaving like court jesters rather than performing their due tasks," Anwar said. That was a jab at all the EC’s comments and attempts to justify the problems arising from the use of the indelible ink in the general election last month.
He added that based on the EC deputy chair's statement that the same ink will be used in the upcoming Kuala Besut by-election, it just goes to show that there will be no foolproof way to run the by-election.
"The mandate given by the public to the EC has been gravely abused, so what trust is there left anymore?" Anwar said.
Anwar said that given the meek manner in which the government has handled the issue so far, the EC should not be allowed to play the role at which it had failed so miserably in the general election.
He was speaking to The Malaysian Insider after delivering his speech at the Black 505 fund-raising dinner held at the Selangor and Federal Territory Hainan Association Hall in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The event was also attended by top opposition leaders including Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, Batu MP Tian Chua, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Subang MP R Sivarasa and youth activist Adam Adli. A total of RM18,447 was raised.
TMI was made to understand that the cost per petition filed against each contested result in the recent general election was about RM50,000, hence the need to raise funds.
Tian Chua also expressed dissatisfaction, saying the EC “had failed to conduct the general elections transparently”.
"I feel the EC need not be there any more since Putrajaya parliamentarian and Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor has himself said that Malaysia does not need indelible ink."
"I would like to ask, why then bother having an Election Commission still, to oversee developments on the matter?" 
He said that the EC must be dissolved before the Kuala Besut by-election. PR and BN are expected to be embroiled in a close fight for the state seat which became vacant after the death of BN's Dr A. Rahman Mokhtar, 55, earlier this week from lung cancer.
The by-election is seen as critical as it could possibly decide the next Terengganu state government. This is because a win for PR would lead to a hung state assembly with both BN and PR having 16 seats each. 
After the general election, the state seat count stood at 17 for BN and 15 for PR (PAS with 14 and PKR with one). A PAS candidate stood against Dr Rahman on May 5. (TMI)
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‘Admit to electoral fraud, racism, corruption first’
In a tit-for-tat rebut opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Pakatan Rakyat would take up Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s national reconciliation offer if the latter admits that there is racism, electoral fraud and corruption in the country.
Earlier this week Najib said for the nation to reconcile, the opposition must accept the 13th General Election results and stop organising rallies.
Responding to Najib, Anwar said he is firm in opposing electoral fraud, corruption and racism.
“If Najib dares to accept the fact that these three things exist in the country, then I will say yes to national reconciliation,” he told some 600 attendees at a Pakatan’s fundraising dinner here last night.
Earlier in his speech Anwar said he is proud of Malaysians because despite the alleged manipulations, media bias and limited resources, 52% of the Malaysians still voted for them.
“Can u think of any other authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regime where we achieve such an outstanding results. Malaysia created history in 2013,” he said to thunderous applause.
Meanwhile, another speaker PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli also vetoed the Najib-style reconciliation.
Rafizi said he would never accept the offer unless there is a change of electoral system.
“This is my reminder to the party elderly and everyone of you, – that over my fat body, never ever reconcile,” he said, to an outburst of laughter.
“Because we have to change the system. If you tally the number, under the present system, the government can be formed by getting only 2 million popular votes out of 12 million popular votes, with only 112 seats.
“Only in Malaysia we are in the same category like Iraq during Sadam Hussein’s time,” he said.
He said BN eventually have to “pack their bag and go” with the declining supports among the young voters and increasing call for a fairer re-delineation of constituencies.
“So that’s why we cannot reconcile because BN is bad for health. The longer we have them, the shorter our life will be,” he said. (TMI)
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Forgive the EC, yes, but they must first bow out - Stephen Ng
While I welcome the suggestion by former Election Commission chief, Tan Sri Rashid Abdul Rahman that the Malaysian public should focus on structural issues such as the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) monopoly on the mainstream media, the indelible ink fiasco is no small issue.
I suggest that Rashid should focus on some issues that he feels passionate about, while I personally look into the ink controversy the way I see it – as a concerned member of the public.
Why the Big Fuss?
While so many allegations have been levelled against the EC, it is this fiasco that clearly shows that the EC has, as a matter of fact, breached public trust; it is by their words, that the public form an opinion.
If the Election Commissioners have any sense of integrity at all, they should resign en bloc in order for a new bipartisan team to be entrusted with the safeguard of the country’s electoral process. When the current commissioners no longer enjoy the public confidence, they should immediately bow out instead of bringing further embarrassment to the name of the Yang DiPertuan Agong.
Despite the efforts by groups such as Tindak Malaysia, Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee and the Parliament Select Committee to help further strengthen the electoral process, the EC did nothing to ensure a clean and fair election.  In fact, they did just the opposite to the known standard practices; whether advertently or inadvertently they did this, I do not know, but from the ink fiasco, it is obvious that they had allowed the loop hole and multiple voting to be exploited.
During the last General Election, a young man in the East Coast state of Terengganu had proven that the ink could be removed easily; thereafter, he walked into the voting station a second time – except that, this young man had the integrity not to vote a second time after collecting the voting slip. This clearly shows that the entire electoral process could be easily breached because the EC had failed to implement a ‘safeguard’ measure that the rakyat wanted to be put in place. 
Pakatan leaders had, time and again, highlighted that there were voters who had registered themselves in different constituencies using different authorisation cards apart from the identity cards. If the election ink could be removed, the same voter who had voted as an advanced voter could then walk into the voting station as a civilian and vote a second time.
That the controversial ink was easily removed did not require a rocket scientist to prove. Even the policeman at the voting stream where I served as a polling agent, happily showed his finger, “No, the ink is long gone!” Teasingly, I told him, “In that case, you can vote a second time.”
With all the vulnerabilities in the electoral process already identified and highlighted to the EC’s duo, with the hope that they could strengthen the electoral process, the ink fiasco is one controversy where we have the EC duo’s own words – and I must say -- the noose is tightening on them!
As more truth is unveiled, it clearly shows that the EC no longer enjoy public confidence. Their lies that they are telling the public are the most blatant that I have seen! Let me give you my line of argument, besides that we are already fully aware of with regards to the so-called health effects of silver nitrate.
Apart from misfeasance, in my opinion, the EC had in fact “acted in a manner that is detrimental to the parliamentary democracy of this country.” This is Section 124C of the Penal Code which carries a sentence of no more than 15 years.
Drying in 3 seconds
In an interview conducted by New Straits Times, the EC deputy chief, Wan Ahmad Wan Omar was asked whether the ink, if applied before the voter picked up the ballot paper would cause a smudge to the ballot paper.
His answer was: “The ink dries in only two seconds.”
As a chemist with my background in printing ink, paint and emulsion polymer, I have yet to come across an ink of this kind that dries in two seconds when applied on human skin. Most standard inks used in elections dry in 15-30 seconds. He insisted that he and others had tried the ink many times.
People like PY Wong of Tindak Malaysia had pointed out that the standard procedure used in other countries has always been to apply the ink after the vote is cast but we have an EC senior official not listening hard to the people.
Cost of the “Indelible” Ink
In 2008, we were told that it only cost RM2.3 million to purchase the indelible ink for 10.9 million voters. However, by 2013, the cost had tripled to RM7.1 million. Whereas the voter population increase was only 21.7 percent, the ink cost had gone up 208.7 percent!
What is more interesting is this: On Sept 21, 2011, Malaysiakini’s Aidila Razak had quoted Ichal Supriadi, from Asian Network for Free Elections, "Indelible ink is good business. For example, US$2.7 million was spent to buy 1,149,890 bottles of indelible ink for 574,945 polling stations in the Indonesian presidential election of 2009."
Assuming a currency exchange rate of RM3 to one US Dollar, this is nearly the same amount that our EC had spent on the indelible ink for the entire country’s 26,000 polling stations during GE13. 
Based on the Indonesian experience, a bottle of indelible ink can be as low as RM7. Even if the EC had purchased 260,000 bottles of the ink (as claimed), it would have just cost them RM1.82 million. And if Indonesia’s cost of using indelible ink was only US$2.7 million (about RM8.1 million), how is it that the EC had to spend a whopping figure of RM7.1 million, when we only had 13 million voters compared to Indonesia’s  170 million and Malaysia’s total land area is only one-fifth that of Indonesia!
Again, reports show that EC claimed they had bought a total of 260,000 bottles. This hardly makes any sense at all, since we have only 26,000 voting streams. Why should each voting stream be given ten bottles of the ink, when all they possibly needed were only two bottles for 800 voters?
Since the indelible ink is available from various countries around the world, why in the first place should the EC “reinvent” the wheel at such a high cost, only to find that it had failed to perform what is supposed to do? Spending over RM7 million from the public’s coffers on the controversial ink, and still telling one lie after another to cover up, that is what infuriates a lot of us.
In retrospect, EC duo had insisted that the ink could last for a minimum of seven days. They also insisted that there was nothing wrong with the ink, when the subject was first raised. Then, they told the story that it was the Ministry of Health which instructed them to use nothing more than one percent Silver Nitrate; anything more would be harmful to the kidneys and considered carcinogenic. Now, it’s clear that the ink had no chemical, but belonging to the same category as food colouring!
By all means use it during the coming by election in Kuala Besut, but use it properly! Follow international standards. If in doubt, consult Tindak Malaysia’s founder, PY Wong. There is nothing magical about the ink except that it is necessary within the context of our “Third World Mentality” to use the indelible ink to reduce possibility of multiple voting. A Boomerang for Abdul Rashid
According to a news report back in 2008, a leaked US diplomatic cable revealed that it was former EC chief, Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman who announced that the indelible ink would not be used at the eleventh hour --- after it had been purchased!
The diplomatic cable had stated that the EC’s reason in making a sudden U-turn on the use of indelible ink during the March 2008 General Election, appeared to be due to pressure from the BN Government.
“In a hastily announced press conference and flanked by both the (former) inspector-general of police (IGP) Musa Hassan, and the attorney-general (AG) Abdul Gani Patail, Rashid stuttered through a prepared statement officially terminating the fraud prevention method that the EC had embraced only nine months ago,” the cable stated.
As suggested by the cable, “The EC's grounds for reversing itself on the use of indelible ink do not appear very convincing. Regardless, the EC has damaged its credibility on the eve of the election and invited greater suspicion of Malaysia's electoral process.”
The indelible ink is supposed to address an important loophole in the voting process; but by their actions, Rashid and in many ways, the EC duo, had acted in a manner that is detrimental to the parliamentary democracy of this country.
Therefore, Rashid and Minister Tengku Adnan, it’s not as simple as that – to scrap the idea of the indelible ink in future general elections just because we are not a third world country or because the ink had become a controversial issue. In fact, the basis of democracy is in a clean and fair election, and unless we fix the loopholes in the voting system, we are no better than Myanmar under the military regime, not forgetting that it is a minority government at present.
And if the current EC has to be sacked, let it be a warning to others that the rakyat takes a serious view of the entire fiasco – or ultimately, the prime minister would have to bear the brunt of it all. This country is not short of people who are more qualified to fill the positions – be it in the EC, police, or even the cabinet! (MM)

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