BERSIH Memorandum to the Parliament of Malaysia and All Its Members
11 December 2007
SAY NO TO THE “SAVE RASHID” AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) urges the Parliament of Malaysia, which consists of His Majesty the Yang diPertuan Agong, Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara to reject the proposed bill to amend Article 114 of the Federal Constitution, which will effect in Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman’s extension as the Election Commission (EC) Chairperson up to one-and-a-half years.
BERSIH stresses that Tan Sri Abdul Rashid, whose service is continuously marred with recurring electoral frauds and manipulations, is not fit for the job and must go immediately. All parliamentarians must therefore vote against this Constitutional Amendment Bill so obviously being rushed through to keep him the job is an insult to both the Constitution and Parliament.
1. In principle, BERSIH has no objection to the extension of the retirement age from 65 to 66 years for all members of the EC. The removal of an EC is constitutionally stipulated to be done in the same manner as a Federal Court judge, whose retirement age has been increased from 65 to 66 years, such synchronization is not objectionable.
2. The Constitutional Bill, if passed through both chambers of the Parliament and consented by HM the Yang diPertuan Agong by this December 31, will however become a back-door extension for Tan Sri Abdul Rashid whose birthday falls on the same day. In other words, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid has to retire if Article 114 of the Federal Constitution is not amended in time. On the other hand, if the amendment is passed, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid may stay on effectively till June 2009 with the conventional half-year extension after retirement. In other words, this will ensure that Tan Sri Abdul Rashid oversees the next elections.
3. The Constitutional Bill, hastily tabled for first reading in Dewan Rakyat on November 20, 2007 and scheduled for second reading on December 11, 2007, is therefore a “Save Rashid” Amendment. Such “Save Rashid” Amendment, by reducing the Federal Constitution to a tool to serve the interests of one individual especially one unfit for the job, is an insult and assault to constitutional democracy.
4. Article 114(2) stipulates “the importance of securing an Election Commission which enjoys public confidence”, which Tan Sri Abdul Rashid has clearly failed. Here is a non-exhaustive list of 10 failures and scandals in the electoral process under his service in and leadership of the EC:
4.1 The electoral rolls is contaminated with the names of the dead, non-citizens, multiple registrations and the under-aged, allowing election outcomes to be determined by phantoms rather than citizens. In 2001, Justice Datuk Muhammad Kamil Awang nullified the election result of Likas state constituency in Sabah on the grounds that the 1998 state electoral roll was illegal as phantom voters, including non-citizens, had cast their votes on polling day.
4.2 The government responded to the Likas verdict by changing the Election Act so that election outcome can no longer be challenged on the grounds of electoral roll validity. All EC wrongdoings are now protected. In a manner amounting to contempt of court, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid attacked Justice Datuk Muhammad Kamil Awang on December 4, 2007, alleging that the judge took it out on the government because he was ‘frustrated with certain things’.
4.3 Voters are transferred from one constituency to another to secure victory for the ruling coalition. In October 2007, EC secretary Datuk Kamaruzaman Mohd Noor blamed some assistant registration officers for cases that happened before 16 July, 2002. If found guilty under the Election Offences Act 1954, those officers shall be liable for imprisonment up to two years, fine up to RM 5,000 or both. However, no names have been disclosed and no police reports lodged.
4.4 Such transfer or implantation of voters continues to happen after 2002. The latest case is the increase of 8,463 voters within three months at Ipoh Barat constituency which the Parliamentary Opposition Leader Mr Lim Kit Siang won with a margin of 9,774 votes in 2004.
4.5 The extent of irregularities and fraudulent registrations, seen particularly in the Ijok by-election on 28 April 2007, is shocking:
• Over 50 dead voters were still on the electoral roll and 12 of them, all of them Malays from the Jaya Setia polling district, rose up from their graves to cast their votes on polling day.
• Three Chinese voters at Pekan Ijok had their votes stolen by impostors, who had turned up earlier at the polling station.
• As many as 23 voters were registered without national identity cards.
• As many as 32 voters aged between 100 and 132 years old were still listed on the electoral rolls.
4.6 In the 2004 general elections, the use of three different versions of the electoral roll led to a breakdown and chaos in polling in at least 17 parliamentary constituencies in Selangor and three in Kuala Lumpur. EC then ordered an illegal extension of polling for two extra hours in some of these constituencies. No EC officers have been prosecuted or penalized for the chaos.
4.7 Also in the 2004 general elections, provisional results showed that 98% of the registered voters collected parliamentary ballots in Kuala Terengganu, but 10,254 ballots were not returned. Tan Sri Abdul Rashid offered an absurd explanation that KT voters had the hobby of collecting ballot papers. The final result published on the Gazette saw the reduction of turnout rate to 84% and the missing ballots to 240, with no explanation offered for this changes.
4.8 For years, elections have seen high number of missing ballots in many constituencies. Top on the list for four elections from 1990 and 2004 was the Lumut constituency, which saw the extent of unreturned ballots soaring from 2,763 in 1982 to 8,176 in 1999. Had these missing ballots found their ways to polling stations in other constituencies, they would have overturned outcomes in many marginal seats. Blaming it on the weakness of postal voting registration, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid has failed to end this phenomenon so damaging to the credibility of the EC and electoral process.
4.9 Mal-apportionment and gerrymandering of constituencies have gone from bad to worse with the 2002 constituency re-delineation exercise. In 2004, BN won an unprecedented 91% parliamentary majority with a mere 64% popular votes. This effectively means that one vote for BN was equivalent for 3 votes for DAP, 8 votes for PAS and 26 votes for Keadilan. Tan Sri Abdul Rashid has made a mockery of the “one person, one vote” principle.
4.10 Ultimately, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid is unfit to chair the EC for he lacks the most fundamental quality: the moral courage and the commitment to act independently, guided only by the Constitution and the best interest of Malaysia’s democracy.
In 2003, he conceded that EC’s ability to carry out its task independently has been hampered by the government. In November 2007, he indirectly admitted that the election date was set by the Prime Minister. On December 8, 2007, he inappropriately said that the ruling coalition is the only regime capable of running the country.
5. On the grounds that Tan Sri Abdul Rashid is unfit to chair EC and his retirement on this December 31 in the best interest of the nation, BERSIH urges all parliamentarians to vote against the Constitutional Amendment Bill.