Thursday, June 4, 2015

Add contempt to idiocy when you think of the EC

02 Jun 2015 10:00 AM

OUTSPOKEN: The public know the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC) knows no shame. The EC wrote Malaysia into the annals of idiocy. We are the only nation which thought indelible was edible ink. To this day, the EC has held no one culpable for the grand fiasco.
The election commissions of other nations labour to keep elections clean. They labour to ensure caretaker governments; equal access to media for all parties; penalties for candidates who use government machinery for party benefit, spend excessively, etc.
Over here, it seems that our EC is colluding with the ruling coalition to keep it in office. Worse, many also feel that the EC shows contempt for the Constitution and the judiciary.
The most recent case is the constituency delineation exercise in Sarawak. The EC, after delaying for too long, finally did the bidding of the Sarawak State Assembly: it sought to create 11 new state constituencies in time for the next state elections in Sarawak, due next year.
The EC continued to be blind and deaf to the protests of the public who, through Bersih 2.0, mobilised people to restore democracy. The people spoke and acted. The people said “enough of a pretend democracy, fix the whole election process, from registering voters to defining constituencies to counting votes.”
 The EC continued to be blind and deaf. The people rose up through groups like Tindak Malaysia. The people trained to be polling and counting agents. The people protected ballot boxes, exposed and derailed cheats. The regime lost its two-thirds majority.
The EC continued to be blind and deaf, despite being counselled to reform by eminent persons (Proham) who had been appointment by the Yang di-Pertuan Agung to serve on the Police Commission and the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).
The people, through groups like Bersih 2.0 and Tindak Malaysia used Google Maps and other technologies to monitor the EC’s delineation antics. They brought legal and election experts into play. They educated the nation on what the Constitution requires, and how the EC creates new rules. They made known long-hidden wrongdoings of the EC.
The EC continued to be blind and deaf. The EC and the government said “one man one vote doesn’t apply in Malaysia.” The EC continued to go its own way in delineating Sarawak.
The people rose up again. Groups of 100 or more used their constitutional right to object to the tomfoolery which the EC claimed was “business as usual.” They cited the Constitution and demanded compliance. They drowned the EC with objections.
The EC created new rules: closed door hearings; no lawyers unless they were members of the objecting constituency; limited time for presentations. The people responded. They briefed the media after each meeting with the EC. They shared their objections online.
Something else happened. Before the EC began its hasty, hushed-up hearings, PKR state vice-chairman See Chee How and Ulu Baram voter Paul Baya challenged the EC in court. They presented the court with evidence that the EC was in contempt of the Constitution. They asked the court to declare the EC’s ongoing delineation activity null and void.
They said the EC had failed on several counts. They said the EC’s defence of “but this is how we’ve always done it” was silly. Sneering at the Constitution successfully for years doesn’t make sneering right! Here are some of the charges they slapped on the EC:
·        The EC published its notice in newspapers which were not adequately distributed.
·        The EC did not provide voters with enough information for them to determine the effects of the proposed changes and decide whether to object.
·        The EC proposed changes to federal constituencies before such changes were approved by Parliament.
·        Documents the EC displayed at venues where the public were invited to review the “recommendations” differed from the documents the EC “published” in newspapers.
·        The EC, in 2015, displayed even less information than the inadequate information displayed in 2005.
The above charges were supported with ample evidence, and came as another instalment in a stream of charges brought against the EC by Bersih 2.0 and others.
Yet the EC chose to ignore the judicial process, because, as in the indelible ink fiasco, “the EC knows best.” The EC continued the hearings instead of deferring them until the court delivered its verdict.
The EC not only continued with its first round of hushed-up “public” hearings; it began the second round!
The verdict is out. The court declared EC guilty of all charges. Will the EC continue to treat the judiciary with contempt? Will the EC admit wrongdoing? Of course not.
The EC has appealed the court’s decision. The EC has resolved to enter the annals of contempt in addition to the annals of idiocy.
An engineer by training, Rama Ramanathan was Quality Leader (Asia Pacific) in two US-based multinationals over the last two decades. Tired of travel, he now mostly stays put in KL and focuses on being a thoughtful neighbour and citizen.
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