Batu Talam (2) January 13, 2007Posted by elizabethwong in Democracy, Malaysia, Politics.
Batu Talam has earned its rightful (and frightful) place as a mythical
site of intrigues; first with an assemblyman who was chopped into many
pieces; the latest assemblyman whose passing, according to local whispers, was not all that natural, and now this – a boycott of the by-election by the Opposition.
I doubt it was a decision that was easy to make for them. No one likes
to give BN a walkover. But with the stunning revelation by the
Election Commission (EC) Chief on Monday, 8th January, anyone who
isn’t in the ruling coalition would hesitate playing in a field filled
This brings back memories of previous elections. In the 1999
elections, though I had registered at Bangsar Shopping Centre two
years ago, my name was missing in the final electoral rolls. Whereas
in 2004, in my constituency of PJ Selatan, there were three (3!)
different electoral rolls going around.
Some people I know found their deceased parents names still
on the list. Azmin Ali not only chanced upon his father’s name, but
apparently the late En. Ali had already voted before his son arrived.
I once met two ladies, who had retired then from the Ministry of
Defence. Over tea and scones, I asked them about the postal votes.
Apparently, they were in charge of those who were stationed away on
voting day, and their section’s task was vote on behalf of them.
“100% BN?” I asked.
“No lah (giggles), we have to make sure there’s some balance.
Perhaps the quota’s changed since then.
And how can we forget the night during the 1999 elections, when the
count was completed in the constituency of Pantai and Zainur Zakaria
led by more than a thousand votes.
*Poof*! The lights went out and when it was back on, “oh-look-there’s
more ballot boxes at the corner”.
Time and time again, the NGOs have called on the EC to overhaul the
entire electoral system. There have been more than enough reports and
data to support this (see Suaram’s Human Rights Report 1999 and 2004,
for starters), but the EC responds by merely throwing its hands in the
How long must we wait for these reforms to materialise? At the rate
the issue’s been treated by both the EC and the Government, my guess
So what are we to do?
As voters, our fundamental right to choose the representatives that we
had marked on our ballot paper is severely violated. For the
Opposition candidates, their fundamental right to participate and be
elected in a free and fair elections is severely curtailed.
There’s little wonder why we get the most unbelievable, unqualified,
uncaring, uncouth MPs and state assembly legislators – who keep
winning despite the fact that they messed up our economy, our rights,
our public utilities – because they never should have won in the first
That’s why I almost applauded at my corner cafe one Friday morning
some weeks ago, when I read Zainah Anwar’s NST column, where she said
her friends weren’t planning to vote in the coming General Elections,
and by default, was asking others to boycott it.
Because in reality, we never had a real choice. There was never a
In the Philippines, the winning formula was known as the ‘3Gs’ –
“Guns, Gold and Ghouls”. I will never forget til this day, the
photographs of young election scrutineers who guarded the ballot boxes
during the 1986 presidential elections with their lives, literally. A
number of them were shot, kidnapped, even murdered. The price they
paid dearly saw the end of the Marcos dictatorship.
This week in Bangladesh, an upheaval over the fairness of the coming
General Elections saw the opposition boycott and the resignation of
the caretaker government. Even the United Nations and the European
Union have pulled out their funds and assistance, suggesting that a
fair election is untenable. The interim President said, “We need a
flawless voter list to ensure that the elections are free, fair and
The key word here is credible. Next to credibility,
is legitimacy. Here, there have been several boycotts
in past elections and by-elections, but this time, it appears that the
Opposition is intent on forcing the EC to reform. If the EC fails to
deliver, then our electoral system will be an international
embarrassment, not unlike many of the despotic states.
We have the semblance of a democracy, but legitimacy can neither be
bought with our version of the Philippines’ 3Gs, i.e. the ‘3Ms’ –
“Money, Media and government Machinery”, nor be justified by a mere
mark on a ballot paper.
That is why, on Wednesday night, I applauded along with more than a
thousand people under the pelting rain, when a voice boomed through
the speakers of Kampung Sega, “We will boycott this by-election – for
the future of democracy.”
‘EC unable to ensure free and fair elections’
Maria J.Dass, The Sun
BANGI (Jan 8, 2007): The Election Commission (EC) is pushing for a
review of the election laws so that it can uphold the democratic
process of fair and transparent elections.
In asking for an independent commission to be set up for this purpose,
its chairman Tan Sri Ab Rashid Ab Rahman said: “There is a need to
update the current system because the old laws are lacking in many
things and thus we cannot deliver what the people want today –
free and fair elections.” (….)