Press Statement, 17 December 2012
The EC’s failure to reform
Since the launch of BERSIH 2.0 in April 2010, its sole purpose as a civil society movement has been to push for urgent electoral reforms ahead of the next general elections. BERSIH 2.0 made efforts to consult with the Election Commission (EC) on key aspects of the changes required to ensure free and fair elections become a reality in Malaysia.
After more than a year passed, BERSIH 2.0 decided that a mass mobilisation of citizens was needed and the BERSIH 2.0 rally was called on 9 July 2011. Instead of heeding the voice of its citizens, the government chose to use heavy police force on this peaceful demonstration, which gained international coverage. After the rally, a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) was formed to look at electoral reforms. However, the PSC report did not receive sufficient attention from the EC and BERSIH 2.0 responded with the call for a “Duduk Bantah” on 28 April 2012, which saw an unprecedented 250,000 citizens taking to the streets.
These moves from BERSIH 2.0 were purely aimed at drawing the attention of the authorities to the urgent demand from the public, who will no longer stand by and allow the electoral process to continue as a lop-sided and undemocratic exercise. If the EC cannot make these crucial reforms happen, what then is the role of the commission?
Furthermore there appears to be a real reluctance to invite international observers although this was recommended by the PSC. If our system is as clean as is claimed, our EC should confidently invite observers from around the world to observe these elections. The EC and the government has also failed to allow for free and fair access to the media, allowing only a pre-recording all political parties’ manifestos. Of all the reforms we have sought, this must surely be the easiest to fulfil yet it remains unfulfilled.
BERSIH 2.0 is also increasingly concerned about the acts of political violence that remain unchecked. Moreover, the police appear to have orders to allow such violence when perpetrated by certain quarters. As has been shown, political violence goes hand in hand with a corrupt political system that is symbolised by an election that is not clean.
All this shows that there is no commitment to real reform, that GE13 will be one of the dirtiest elections ever seen and that we should not anticipate any change in the near future.
Further proof came from the EC chairman who once again stated, “There is nothing wrong for any EC officer to join political parties. It doesn’t matter if they are in PAS, PKR or Umno. It is their democratic right.” This is the second time that the EC has failed to see the need for it to remain impartial and independent; such an incorrigible attitude cannot be tolerated.
The EC has also clearly disregarded the importance of ensuring that overseas voters will be counted in the next elections as it has failed to meet its own deadline for announcing the relevant procedures, which was due in the last Parliament session. Now, up to one million overseas voters may be left without knowing their fate in the general elections.
This incompetence from the EC is summed up by its abject failure to respond adequately to the many discrepancies and fraud highlighted by civil society groups and political parties, including the report by the Selangor government last month. All that the EC could manage was its typical lukewarm response and shallow excuses that shift the blame away from itself.
The only demand they appear to have fulfilled is indelible ink; however, too many questions remain over the actual process of using the ink, as highlighted by BERSIH 2.0 last month. In the meantime there are increasing instances of discrepancies on the electoral roll, despite the EC’s public assurances that it is serious about reducing such issues.
Thus, the EC has shown itself as obstructive and utterly uninterested in implementing the simple reforms needed before the elections. BERSIH 2.0 therefore unequivocally believes that the task of ensuring free and fair elections falls to us as citizens.
We will be announcing two important campaigns early next year. One is to encourage a high voter turnout in the elections and the other is to expand our citizen observer campaign across the country. More details will follow in the new year.
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (BERSIH 2.0)
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0 comprises: Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Co-Chairperson), Datuk A. Samad Said (Co-Chairperson), Ahmad Shukri Abdul Razab, Andrew Ambrose, Andrew Khoo, Anne Lasimbang, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Awang Abdillah, Dr Farouk Musa, Hishamuddin Rais, Liau Kok Fah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Matthew Vincent, Niloh Ason, Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh and Zaid Kamaruddin