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The EC chief admits he and his officers played fast and loose with the rules to short-circuit the polls

THE ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIRMAN, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, is up the creek for what happened in last month's general election. He was the EC secretary for nearly two decades, his longevity in that office only added proof that he did his part to ensure that the EC exists to return the National Front (BN) into power, election after election. He did that with stellar diligence. In 1994, when the Party Bersatu Sabah of Dato' Joseph Pairin Kitingan won that election, he delayed the results long enough so the pro-Kuala Lumpur parties could be sworn in and obtain a majority with the six nominated assemblymen. The PBS team had squatted outside the residence of the Yang Dipertua Negara (Governor) for nearly two days, with portable toilets in tow. That is one of his prouder achievements. He did his job well. So he was made EC chairman. The EC secretary, Dato' Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, is a man steeped in political skullduggery: as a senior member in Malaysia's intelligence services, he was now given a chance to show his skill in public where in the past it was in private and often secret. He went overboard. The detritus of his handiwork became so obvious that the results the EC posted on its website was quickly withdrawn, what it posted damaged it.

This belief that Malaysia's 11th general election was shortchanged did not come from just hearsay. It was there on the EC website for all to see. They were downloaded, and when it raised more questions than answers, it was hastily pulled out. Why? In the Kuala Trengganu parliamentary constituency, the EC website initially showed an unaccounted 10,000 ballot papers. When it was challenged, it was hastily pulled down, and the revised results showed nothing that like. Tan Sri Abdul Rashid now claims that a third of the 200,000 postal ballot papers were not returned, and that accounted for "some" constituencies showing a relatively high number of unreturned ballot papers. The results have since been adjusted - there is no other word to describe it - but few, except in the BN, accept it. When this should have been the new prime minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's greatest triumph, his strength is now dissipated in this deliberate attempt to turn the election wholly towards BN. The Barisan Alternatif (the Alternate Front), today (14 April 2004) released its analysis of the poll results, based on official documents. Not that it would improve matters much. The EC has decided that for all its faults, it did right, and if the Opposition parties did not agree, the redress is in the courts.

But the EC's case is flawed. Tan Sri Abdul Rashid, in earlier press statements, after the polls, thought the flaws and mishaps serious enough to demand a royal commission to look into it. But there would be no royal commission: the BN president, Pak Lah, has decided against it. It proves, if nothing else, that he is answerable not to the King who appoints him, but to the man he takes orders from. When the EC chairman himself is in doubt about the poll results to demand a royal commission, no amount of whitewash can whiten the EC's dark deeds. Now he comes up with more. He blames the national printer, PNMB's proof readers for the mistake in the Sungei Lembing state constituency in Pahang for substituting the PAS symbol against the KeADILan candidate. Then he admits the EC officials, in Pahang, and the polling stations, ignored EC directives to check and countercheck all ballot papers. He has his reasons why they did not, but they do not count: they had a constitutional duty, and they breached it. They should no be asked to explain why.

He does not explain why polling in Selangor was extended unilaterally by two hours, an act which took even the candidates in Selangor by surprise. He does not explain why the electoral register given to Opposition candidates was gazetted on 02 March 2004, while the register used in the polling was gazetted on 15 March, two days after nomination day. EC officials were at pains to insist that the register available on 13 March would be used for the polls. Why was there this rush to get the latest register for the polls? This confusion led to growing doubts amongst concerned Malaysians that the EC deliberately went about to make the Opposition fall flat on its face, not on its own, as they probably would have, but with the EC's active support. If this comes to the court, as it must, Tan Sri Rashid and Dato' Wan Ahmad has much to answer for. Tan Sri Rashid must explain why Dato' Wan Ahmad did an internal probe at such short notice, without any basis, and without interviewing those who claimed they had been shortchanged.

He missed out one department who made it easy for phantoms to vote: the National Registratioin Department, which issues identity cards. Hundreds of thousands of identity cards are issued, legally, by the NRD, before general elections. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants suddenly were given the "blue" identity cards, which citizens hold, and registered as voters. Because its work is behind the scenes, the NRD's role is not addressed or known. The Opposition parties are wrong to insist that the ICs given the illegal immigrants and others are fakes: they are not, they are the real thing. Tan Sri Rashid, when EC secretary, worked with the NRD in Sabah to ensure the PBS government was defeated, giving tens of thousands of illegal immigrants and refugees the ICs, so they could vote.

A royal commission would bring these, and other inconvenient facts, to public notice. The last thing the BN government wants is another scandal of such dramatic proportions that could sink it. Even with a 90 per cent majority in parliament. It is in every one's interest in the government to hope this matter would fade away. It would not. Tan Sri Rashid contradicts himself every time he opens his mouth, and he has revealed more than he should, that he and the EC has much explaining to do. No doubt he and the EC secretary would be subpoenaed when the election petitions are filed. In one sense, what happened with the elections is hubris, the arrogance that it can do what it likes, so long as the BN is behind it, the opposition could do nothing no matter what. But I am afraid the EC crossed the Rubicon. There is no turning back. I doubt if the BN has understood the magnitude of what it wrought.

M.G.G. Pillai
[email protected]

Terbitan : 16 April 2004

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