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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bersih considers legal action against recalcitrant EC

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:25 AM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Appalled by how the Election Commission (EC) has dealt with irregularities exposed in the electoral roll, Bersih 2.0 is considering taking it to court.
Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan has little doubt that the EC's knee-jerk reaction to arbitrarily delete or amend voters' details is anything but legal.
"I'm not sure they can actually do that - just remove names and put names and change things. They will say they are operating under regulations that entitle them to correct clerical errors,” she said.

"But these are not clerical errors... so I'm not sure under what law they are proceeding to do this cleaning which they said they are doing on a daily basis."

She was referring to the EC's action to remove 'clone' voters from the electoral roll based on Malaysiakini reports.
'Clone' voters refers to those who have two entries in the electoral roll, based on the same name but with different MyKad numbers.
EC chairperson Abdul Aziz Yusof had explained that the issue of double identity was due to human error when the MyKad number was keyed into the system.

To eliminate claims that 'phantom voters' exist in the roll, Abdul Aziz said the EC will remove 12,000 names of voters aged 90 and above.

Those in this age-group who still want to vote in the next general election can contact the EC to have their names reinstated, he said.

Responding to this, Ambiga said the EC should have a holistic approach to solve the problems rather than generalise these as technical mistakes and amend the electoral roll, “which is a sacrosanct document”, at its whim and fancy.

"The frightening part is that if these cases had not been highlighted, it looks like the EC would not have done anything. So in other words, they are expecting the public to do their homework."

Another action that could be challenged in court, she said, was the EC's relocation of voters without going through a redelineation exercise, which could only be done every eight years.

This had happened during the Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election in April last year, when 228 voters from Kampung Tanjung were relocated to neighbouring Selayang, making them unable to vote in the fiercely contested by-election.

Legal action against the EC, Ambiga said, could force the body to perform its duty according to the law.

"I know it is difficult to challenge the electoral roll but I think there are legal provisions that require the EC to act within the law. So that's what we are looking at," she said, adding that a decision would be made in the next three to four weeks.

She repeated that Bersih 2.0 had suggested a more comprehensive solution to the electoral roll problem - by setting up a special task force with representatives from all political parties - but that the EC has yet to respond to this.

'Insult to Malaysians'

On the statements of premier Najib Abdul Razak and deputy police chief Khalid Abu Bakar who cited the riots in London to justify Malaysia's clampdown on the Bersih 2.0 rally on July 9, Ambiga described this as an insult to Malaysians.

"What an insult to the peace-loving Malaysian people. How can they possibly suggest that we are in any way in a similar situation as the rioters?”

Other Bersih 2.0 steering committee members who were with her during the interview, echoed the sentiment.

P Ramakrishnan stressed that during the rally, during which at least 15,000 took part, "not a single flower pot was broken and not a single car was scratched".

"The only undisciplined (sections of the) crowd were certain elements of the police," Ramakrishnan said.

Toh Kin Woon highlighted how the situation in the UK is being debated by Britons and how efforts are being made by the British government to identify the root causes of dissatisfaction that led to the riots.

This, he said, is in stark contrast to the Malaysian government's action of just condemning Bersih 2.0 without addressing its demands

Agreed Ambiga: "That's a responsible government reaction (in the UK) ... There is no society that doesn't have problems. What distinguishes a truly democratic society is the government's response to problems.”

She said Malaysia's simplistic argument of equalling all street demonstrations with riots is like saying “cars cause accidents, so people should not drive at all”.

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