Sunday, September 22, 2013

Baram folk given only three hours to vote, tribunal told

BERSIH TRIBUNAL Several villagers in the interiors of Baram, Sarawak were denied their right to vote as the polling stations there were only opened for three hours, the People’s Tribunal heard today.

Testifying before the election fact-finding tribunal in Subang Jaya today, PKR’s defeated Baram parliamentary candidate Roland Engan said at least two polling stations were only opened from 8am to 11am.

“There was no notice given (about the early closure),” he said.

NONERoland (right) noted that the early closure was in the face of an expected high turnout as the construction of the Baram dam was a major issue for the local constituency.

He pointed out that one of the polling station was closed early by an polling officer who is married to the BN’s candidate’s first cousin.

“I know that fact because he is from my village,” said Roland.

According to a police report submitted to the tribunal in relation to this, 33 people in Baram were not able to vote.

“Most of those who were queuing outside were our supporters,” he said.

Roland lost the Baram parliamentary constituency by a razor thin margin of 194 votes.

One of the tribunal’s member, Mavis Puthucheary, said the Election Commission (EC) had the power to close polling stations early but noted that no notice was apparently given in this case.

“That is an important breach of regulations,” she said.

Mavis added that it would be appropriate for the EC to explain before the tribunal the appointment of election officers who are related to the election candidate in the same constituency.

The EC has thus far refused to participate in the tribunal which is organised by electoral reform movement Bersih.

‘High petition cost’

Furthermore, Roland complained that after the polling stations closed, the balloting which was supposed to be counted at 5pm that day was done at 12 noon.

Roland also complained that the counting of advance votes was done in his and his counting agent’s presence.

He added that there was also widespread vote-buying and even his own father had received RM20 to vote.

NONERoland, who had filed an election petition for the results of the Baram parliamentary seat, had later withdrawn it.

He cited the large numbers of election petitions that were being struck out nationwide as a reason and that the move will mitigate the costs.

Another member of the tribunal, Azzat Kamaludin, queried about the RM25,000 costs even though the case was withdrawn.

“You need to pay this much even though you withdrew the case, are you satisfied?” he asked.

To this, Roland replied: “Yes, I think it’s among the lowest (among other election petitions in the country),” he said, inviting laughter from the room.

The tribunal’s chief, Yash Pal Ghai, noted that the election petition system appear to be set up in a way that discourages people from going to the courts on election matters.

~ Malaysiakini

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