May 1, 2018
Malaysia’s GE-14: The Cheating has begun
Not just the cheating, the lies and the bullshit too. And that is why the character and integrity of a Prime Minister matter. Never elect a leader whose character is suspect. Otherwise, our country will go down the road of perdition. Vote wisely on May 9, 2018. You can make the difference
QUESTION TIME | If there was hope – any hope at all – that the referee, Elections Commission (EC) will ensure fair play at the polls, that evaporated like dew in the sunlight on nomination day April 28 when strange decisions taken by EC officials clearly detrimental to the opposition.
This was compounded further by several bankrupts being fielded mainly as opposition candidates and some questionable decisions by the opposition in terms of contestants which could lose them a couple of more parliamentary seats quite needlessly, in addition to the one they already lost on nomination day.
After that unfair, twisted redelineation exercise which blatantly increased further the disparity in constituency sizes in violation of the Constitution and concentrated opposition voters into particular constituencies, thereby increasing the chances for the ruling party to win, few expect anything much from the EC.
Below are some random ruminations about the nominations.
Activists hold placards reading “Election Commission steals the General Election 14” during a protest outside Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
1. Poor show by EC. They are supposed to be there to facilitate the process of nominations to ensure that democracy prevails in the country, not to put deliberate blocks in the way of candidates so that they can’t even contest. On top of that, to go against a court decision and disqualified a candidate is ridiculously shocking to say the least while unfairly restraining a candidate from putting in his nomination papers is just too much. See point 4 and 5 below.
Meantime, the EC makes one-sided new guidelines such as this one: Candidates can only use photos of only two leaders of a political party – the president and deputy president, or their equivalent – on campaign materials, other than the photo of the candidate. That puts a great strain on what Pakatan Harapan can do in its campaigns. Read this report and be sure to watch the video of Mahathir’s image being cut out of a poster in Ayer Hitam. The depths to which the EC has descended!
2. Arrested for taking down BN banners. By arresting and detaining people who took down BN banners which were put up before of the nomination day in violation of the Election Offences Act, the police have shown their lack of neutrality. Why is taking down these banners an offence? And why is it considered okay to put up these banners illegally in the first place? Is it not more important to take action against the people who put the illegal banners and posters?
3. Why does EC object to Suhakam as an observer? Suhakam, Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission, an organisation established under an act of Parliament in 1999, was not considered fit enough to be an accredited observer by the EC, the reason being that Suhakam’s scope is fundamental liberties while EC’s is to ensure fair conduct of the elections.
But what is there to fear? Is it not okay for Suhakam to ensure that what the EC does protect the fundamental rights of all people while it conducts elections? Perhaps that what’s the EC fears.
4. Pakatan Harapan – one parliamentary seat down. Tian Chua cuts a colourful figure who has been in many scrapes before, having been arrested and detained by the police, brought to court in cuffs and even convicted. But to have his candidature for Batu to be ruled out by the EC returning officer because of a RM2,000 fine previously was clearly erroneous.
As election watchdog Bersih pointed out, the Kuala Lumpur High Court had said in a 2010 decision that the fine to disqualify an MP shall be RM2,001 and above. Worse, when the EC chairperson was asked to comment, he merely said the opposition can take the EC to court, which Tian Chua subsequently did.
5. Drama at Rantau. The PKR candidate here apparently did not have an EC pass to enter the building but was given exemption from it, and still the returning officer kept him waiting until 10.03am, according to press reports. It was then declared that it was too late for him to be a candidate. Photos and videos showed Dr S Streram, the PKR candidate being forcibly restrained by police. Why was such action necessary when there is no requirement to have a pass for entrance to the nomination hall under the law?
6. Why sacrifice Jeyakumar? It looks like Harapan is unable to adopt the gentle art of compromise sometimes. Everyone knows Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj as the giant killer who finally got rid of MIC’s S Samy Vellu at Sungai Siput in 2008 and who successfully defended the seat in 2013. He is known as a conscientious, intelligent and rational MP and someone who works very hard for his constituents.
If Harapan did not put a candidate against him, that seat was considered safe. But not anymore. Why give up one opposition seat just like that? When a compromise with Bersatu and Mahathir can be made, giving that party 52 parliamentary seats to contest, by many with dubious records, why can’t a deal be struck with honourable, hardworking Jeyakumar?
Does it make much of a difference if he contests under the PSM banner or that of PKR?
7. Why drop Surendran? Unless N Surendran wanted out from the Padang Serai parliamentary seat in Kedah, it is impossible to understand why he was dropped. He has been one of Anwar Ibrahim’s key lawyers for many years now and also represented many Indians and others pro bono. He is one of PKR’s very recognisable public faces who constantly speaks out on Indian issues in and out of Parliament and known among moderates to be reasonable and articulate.
His replacement is not recognisable and with a three-cornered fight looming against BN and PAS, this seat is now in danger of being lost. Can Pakatan afford to lose another two seats just like that?
8. Bankrupt politicians. Meantime, at least four candidates were disqualified for being bankrupts. Three were from opposition Bersatu and one from PAS. We know that many politicians are bankrupt of ideas and moral standards but does this have to extend to their financial situation as well? Even if their bankruptcies had been lifted, does it not say tonnes about the kind of people they are who allowed themselves to be declared bankrupt in the first place?
Can’t these parties find better candidates than that? And if they are elected via the Malay tsunami that many expect, can we expect them to be honourable and efficient elected representatives or are they mere opportunists?
9. Rapid KL vehicles with BN markings. Rapid KL is a government-owned company providing public transport in Kuala Lumpur. Therefore, it is owned by the people and not the ruling BN. As I was in a car in Kuala Lumpur, on nomination day, I noticed a Rapid KL bus with prominent BN posters stuck on it extolling the virtues of the BN government.
Such blatant violation of the Election Offences Act should not be permitted but we all know the EC will do nothing. All government-owned and government-linked companies should not allow their resources to be used for electioneering.
10. Arul Kanda on the campaign trail. This CEO of Finance Ministry-owned 1MDB which has lost billions of ringgit for the country, on which thousands upon thousands of words have been written, is holding ceramahs of his own as if he were a politician, publicly saying he will do five more before the general elections. This is a yet another blatant case of using public resources in electioneering.
When he does these things around the elections period, he is clearly trying to help his political masters, not doing some gainful activity for 1MDB. Everyone but those from BN, and its CEO, know that 1MDB is a failed organisation from whom billions have disappeared and represents the worst case of kleptocracy the world has ever seen.
The kind of things that happened on nomination day may be a foreboding of things to come if elections results go against BN. To stop that boldness and vigilance is required from all of us. We need to come out in large numbers, first to vote to ensure the true will of the public is exercised. And then to volunteer to observe the balloting carefully, and protest where necessary to stop any cheating.
When the EC shows itself to be seriously deficient in so many ways, we need to step up to do the needful.
P GUNASEGARAM will vote against the EC on polling day. He hopes you will too. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.