Press Release from BERSIH 2.0
Dated : 24th November 2019
ADDRESSING THE ADDRESS PROBLEM IN MALAYSIA, ONCE AND FOR ALL
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) is co-organising with the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (KPKT) a two-day workshop on “Establishing a Unique Address Registration System in Malaysia” on the 25th and 26th of November in Kuala Lumpur. This is an important first-step to resolve a long-standing issue our country faces with how we handle our addresses.
The problem with the way we assign addresses to our properties in Malaysia is the lack of standardisation in how we order the number, place names, roads, estate, city and even how we spell words. Despite the existence of a Malaysian Standard for Addresses (MS2039:2006), we are still a long way from achieving an acceptable level of standardisation.
The consequences of this problem are far-reaching and go beyond difficulties encountered by the postal or delivery service providers. It affects the efficiency of public and private sector administration and effectiveness of data analyses. The address is the most common data required by almost all manner of service providers, from registration as a voter, medical record, insurance, banking, mobile phone subscription, library membership, local council services, etc.
But having a definitive format for address and full compliance to the standard does not necessarily lead to the efficient and effective delivery of services nor help in data analyses. What we need is a unique identifier for each spatial address and each piece of land in Malaysia. Just as every published book has a unique ISBN code, every citizen has an IC number, every company a registration number, and every internet domain has an IP number, we need to attach a unique identifier code to every addressable property on the country.
A unique property identifier for every property, be it be undeveloped land, factory, house, or flat, would have a number assigned to it throughout its life-cycle from planning permission to construction, to completion and to demolition. This unique identifier links and underpins every dataset that public and private organisations may have and removes error in data exchange and communication, and delivers efficiency gains in operational processes.
As an example, BERSIH 2.0 and other electoral watchdogs have uncovered substantial data errors and frauds in the electoral roll maintained by the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC). Much of the issues originated from how addresses are collected and entered by the EC of eligible voters. The EC relies on the National Registration Department (NRD) who issues the MyKad (Identification Cards) to citizens. NRD rely on people to furnish the correct address and until 1st May 2019, without any documentary proof of residency, correctness or even existence of such addresses.
Due to ambiguities in many addresses, the manual assignment of localities (the smallest unit of electoral boundaries) to voters by EC staff has led to entry errors that resulted in strange assignments. As an example, husband and wife living in the same house and bed but assigned to different constituencies to vote. Some addresses are large plot numbers, some just road names, some are just names of villages and even some are just electrical pole numbers.
What is also of great concern is the inability to verify the genuineness of addresses, whether such property even exists or are the correct category for the purpose of the application, for example, that the property has been demolished or never built. Fraudulent registration of voters in non-existent addresses and packing of a large number of voters into a single address were prevalent and unless audits of the electoral roll are carried out, such abuses would go undetected. The absence of a unique identifier for addresses undermines the integrity of data where the correct location of the person is critical for determination of their eligibility and for delivery of services to them.
To explore the viability of setting up a registry that is similar to the UK’s Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) in Malaysia, BERSIH 2.0, ERC and KPKT is bringing together foreign experts from the UK and Australia, public sector data providers and users, private sectors users of addresses, ICT experts and civil society groups who relies on good addresses to carry out their work, for this important workshop. It is our sincere hope that the exchanges at this workshop would spur the government and key agencies to make this registry a reality and thereby resolve our addressing problem, once and for all.
Statement issued by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0