Malaysians must beware not only of fake news but also of fake elections

I welcome the late-night announcement last night by the Election Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Mohd Hashim Abdullah that the Election Commission will invite international election observers and appoint local NGO representatives as observers for the 14th General Election which will be held in a hundred days.

Several UMNO Cabinet Ministers opposing international observers to the 14 General Election, in the wake of the boast by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak that there would be no “cheating” in the general election, were clearly shooting UMNO/BN in the foot – made worse by their belated discovery that Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had agreed to Commonwealth observers to the 1990 General Election.

This is what I said in my media statement on July 10, 1990 on my hour-long meeting with Mahathir in the Prime Minister’s Office a day earlier on international observers for the 1990 General Election:

“To my suggestion that the Commonwealth Observer Mission should not have any monopoly of observing the general elections, and that any international group which wants to send Observer Mission should be free to do so, Dr. Mahathir said he had no objections to their coming.”

Are Najib and the Election Commission prepared to adopt the open-minded position of Mahathir in 1990 that any international group are welcome and free to send an observer mission for the 14th General Election, especially as it is going to the most crucial general election in Malaysian history as it would decide whether there would be a change of Federal Government in Putrajaya for the first time in 61 years?

Up to now, the Election Commission has adopted a narrow and restricted position on the invitation of international observers for the 14th General Election – that it be confined to foreign election observer groups which had invited the Election Commission previously.

This is clearly unacceptable.

The Election Commission should conduct a deep soul-searching why it has fallen so abysmally from a world-class credible Election Commission when the country achieved independence six decades ago to the lowly position today, when Malaysia’s ranking on the Electoral Integrity Index is the abysmal position of No. 142 out of 158 countries, lower than Indonesia ranked No.68, Singapore ranked 94 and Philippines ranked 101!

There is an urgent need to legitimise and improve both the country’s election process and the Election Commission’s credibility, independence and professionalism.

This is why the Election Commission should not shirk its primary constitutional duty to ensure that short of a system of automatic registration of qualified voters, the highest percentage possible of eligible voters are registered on the electoral roll to entitle them to exercise their constitutional role to vote in the 14GE.

But having over three million eligible voters not yet registered on the electoral roll when the country will be having its 14GE in a hundred days is really scandalous and reflects poorly on the efficiency, competence, professionalism and dedication of the Election Commission.

This is because at the third quarter of last year, 14.8 million Malaysians are registered as voters but more than three million Malaysians who are over 21 years old have not registered.

I am surprised that the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed objected to my proposal that the Election Commission ensure that two weeks before Polling Day, qualified voters could register as voters to enable them to cast their votes on Polling Day – when twenty years ago, as I had pointed out in Parliament in the nineties, countries like New Zealand can have voter registration systems which allow qualified voters to register on the eve of polling day and cast their vote the next day.

This is an example of power going to the head which changes a person’s perceptions and character as I have no doubt that Nur Jazlan would have fully agreed with my proposal if he is still a backbencher or Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

To re-establish its world-class position in terms of credibility, authority and professionalism, I have proposed the establishment of a bipartisan Parliamentary Select Committee on the Election Commission’s 2018 constituency redelineation proposals which should conduct national hearings in the Peninsular states and to submit its report to Parliament within a month, before any parliamentary voting on the Election Commisions’ Redelineation Report.

Does the Election Commission agree with the proposal for a bipartisan Parliamentary Select Committee on the Election Commission’s 2018 constituency redelineation recommendations?

In this era, Malaysians must beware not only of fake news, but also fake elections.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah