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  Speech by Lim Kit Siang at the opening of the Canning (Ipoh Timur) election operation centre at Kampung Simee, Ipoh on Monday, 11th February 2008 at 10.30 am: 

Final reminder to Abdullah that dissolving Parliament and kicking off 12th general election on 13th Feb or before  Chap Goh Mei on 21st February would be worst example of insensitivity for diverse cultures and religions in Malaysia after the offense and insensitivity in holding Umno general assembly during Deepavali last November 

I have this morning  sent an urgent email to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi giving him a final reminder that dissolving Parliament and kicking off the 12th general election campaign on 13th February or before Chap Goh Mei on 21st February would be the worst example of insensitivity for the diverse cultures and religions in Malaysia after the offense and insensitivity in holding the Umno General Assembly during Deepavali last November. 

According the Star online report last night, the Prime Minister said in Butteworth that the dissolution of Parliament on Feb. 13 is a possibility. 

I also wish to give a final reminder  to the MCA President, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, the Acting Gerakan President Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon and the SUPP President Tan Sri Dr. George Chan that the onus is on them to impress on the onAbdullah  to be sensitive and  respect the 15-day Chinese New Year festivities and that the insensitivity shown by the Umno national leadership to the Deepavali public holiday last November should not be repeated again. 

I am most shocked that Abdullah has not publicly ruled out the possibility of dissolving Parliament on Feb. 13, the seventh day of the Chinese New Year. As  a Penangite, Abdullah  should know that the dissolution of Parliament on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year would be doubly offensive  and insensitive � as it will  not only be a  disrespect to the Chinese New Year celebrations but also to Pai Tian Gong which falls on the 9th day of the Lunar New Year,  the birthday of the Jade Emperor and a major event for the Hokkiens in Penang. 

If Abdullah dissolves Parliament before Chap Goh Mei, utterly insensitive for the Pai Tiang Gong and 15-day Chinese New Year celebrations, it will become the best proof in the 12th general election of the hardening of insensitivity and disrespect to diverse cultures and religions in the country in the past 51 months of the Abdullah premiership � the reason why there is an alarming rise of the breed of Little Napoleons and Little Mullah Napoleons (LMNs) in the public service resulting in polarizing incidents like body-snatching, bible-banning and temple demolitions. 

Nobody questions or challenges the prerogative of the Prime Minister to decide on when to advise the King to dissolve Parliament, but this prerogative must be subject to two caveats: 

If the dissolution of Parliament is after Chap Goh Mei, a hot set of dates being speculated are dissolution on 22nd February, Nomination on 27th February or March 1s with  Polling on 8th March, 2008 

(i)         respect and sensitivity to the diverse religions, cultures and customs in the country, which means no spoiling  the spirit and mood of the 15-day  Chinese New Year from the 1st day of CNY to  Chap Goh Mei (7 to 21 February 2008)..

(ii)        Respect the ethics of a  free and fair general election and abide by the best international practices particularly of first-world developed nations in conducting elections. 

A quick survey of the most recent electoral practices in first-world developed nations which Malaysia aspires to join under Vision 2020 is the common best practice where at their voters are given at least one clear month�s notice between dissolution of Parliament and polling � like United Kingdom (one month), Australia (40 days), New Zealand (54 days) and Canada (55 days). 

Horror of horrors, President Robert Mugabe has given 64 days� notice for presidential, general and local elections in Zimbabwe on March 29, 2008! 

Even if Abdullah cannot best United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in terms of fair and proper notice for the holding of general election, is he to go down in history as doing  even worse than Mugabe of Zimbabwe by having the shortest period for free, fair and clean election campaign for a general election among Commonwealth countries? 

The least Abdullah should do is to ensure that there is at least one full month between the date of dissolution of Parliament and Polling Day. If Parliament is to be dissolved on Feb. 22, polling day should not be held earlier than March 21 � which will give Abdullah ample time to attend the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in Dakar from March 13-14 for the handing over of the OIC Chairmanship from Malaysia to Senegal. 

Or is Abdullah mortally afraid that the Barisan Nasional would suffer very adverse electoral results if the 12th general election is held after mid-March? 

The first general election conducted by Abdullah in 2004 was even more unfair and undemocratic than all the five general elections conducted during Tun Dr. Mahathir�s 22 years as Prime Minister from 1981-2003,  as it provided for a 71/2-day campaign period between Nomination and Polling which is even shorter than nine-day campaign period in the 1999 general election, one of the �dirtiest� general elections in the eleven national general elections held since independence in 1957.  

No wonder Tun Dr. Mahathir recently predicted that the next general election would be the dirtiest in Malaysian history. 

Is Abdullah prepared to ensure that the 12th  general election will be the most free, fair and clean than anyone conducted by Tun Dr. Mahathir in his 22 years of premiership? 

In the 1982 general election, the first conducted by Tun Dr. Mahathir, Parliament was dissolved on 21st March 1982, Nomination was  on 7th April 1982 and Polling on 22nd April 1982 � i.e.  15-day campaign period between Nomination and Polling while there were 32-day span between Parliament�s dissolution and Polling Day. 

Can Abdullah do better than Mahathir in providing at least one month notice between dissolution of Parliament and Polling or he could only do worse than his predecessor?

* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman


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