Pak Lah, heads must roll on the indelible ink fiasco!

Posted on May 6, 2008

32


You all will surely remember how swiftly the Constitution was amended last year to extend Rashid’s tenure as chairman of the Election Commission.

The Constitution Amendment Bill to facilitate this was first tabled in Parliament on 20th November, 2007.

On 11th December, 2007, the bill received its second and third reading and by year end, the amendment was complete.

All done and wrapped up inside of two months.

Turn your attention now to the matter of the proposed use of indelible ink at the recently concluded 12th GE.

Malaysiakini has it on record that in December, 2006, Rashid poo-pooed a proposal from Bersih to use indelible ink as “archaic”.

6 months later, in June, Malaysiakini reported that Rashid did an about-turn and announced that the EC was in principle agreeable to the use of the indelible ink, subject to two issues being sorted out.

One of those issues was whether there was a need to amend legislation such as the Election (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981 to allow for the implementation of the the proposal.

Rashid is quoted as saying, “We hope we can carry out the proposal in time for the forthcoming general election because there have been a lot of requests on this, especially from the opposition”.

Note that at this time, Rashid was well aware that the use of the indelible ink might well need amendments to the law if it was to be effected at the next elections.

Malaysiakini further reports that in July last year, at a meeting between Rashid and BERSIH reps, the former had said that use of the indelible ink was also subject to prior approval of the Fatwa Council. Further, Rashid had said that the EC was not as yet allowed by law to compel voters who had cast their ballots to be marked with indelible ink and such a move must be done voluntarily by the voters.

Note here that Rashid was already aware of this issue as early as July last year.

On 8th August last year, Malaysiakini reported that the National Fatwa Council had okayed the proposed use of the indelible ink and five days later, Malaysiakini reported that the EC had finally approved the use of the indelible ink for the next GE.

Now, having said earlier that the EC hoped to be able to use the indelible ink for the next elections, one would have expected that Rashid would have got the AG’s Chambers to get into Parliament the necessary bill to amend the law to address the problems to the use of the indelible ink that he was plainly aware of.

Nothing happened.

On 7th January, 2008, Malaysiakini reported that Rashid had said that nationwide polls were “around the corner”.

To quote Rashid : “When I say the election is around the corner, you better believe me because it is not a joke,”

And still no action taken by the EC to have the necessary laws passed to allow for the use of the indelible ink at the polls that were “around the corner”.

Parliament was dissolved on 14th February and the EC fixed polling day on 8th March.

Then came the bombshell. Four days before the last GE, Rashid announces that the indelible ink will not be used.

His reasons?

As reported in Malaysiakini, Rashid offered two principle reasons at a press conference at which AG Gani Patail and IGP Musa Hassan were also present.

First, voters could not be compelled to have the ink applied on their person unless the law was first amended to allow for this. To overcome this, the Constitution would need to be amended and Parliament was already dissolved.

Second, there were police reports that indelible ink had been smuggled in from abroad with the intention of creating confusion and suspicion as to the status of voters. Arising from this, four individuals were being questioned.

With regard to this second reason, Malaysiakini quotes Rashid as follows :

“Their intention is to create confusion and suspicion as to the status of such voters. This may cause chaos at polling stations which, if widespread, may be difficult to control. The EC views these issues seriously as the election process and public order and security cannot be compromised.”

To my mind, the first reason does not hold water as from as early as July last year, Rashid was aware of this. Why did he not move to have the necessary amendments put in place?

As to the second reason, reading what Rashid had said would give the impression that there was cogent evidence to warrant this concern. In fact, in a later report dated 24th March, Malaysiakini has it that Musa had said that initial investigation revealed that the four arrested in connection with this issue had allegedly planned to mark the ink on index fingers of unsuspecting voters in rural areas to stop them from casting their ballots.

Today, Malaysiakini reports that in Parliament, Syed Hamid Albar said :

“After the police reports were studied and interviews with the complainants and the witnesses, it is found that there was no evidence at all to show the ink was smuggled in from Thailand. This is because no witness has seen the ink. From the witness statements, no individual, syndicate or any particular party was identified to be involved in this (ink smuggling). The complainant and witness’ statement were based on hearsay and no individual was identified positively”.

Malaysiakini also reported that Hamid Albar said that the complainants had lodged the police reports on the basis that they were worried the indelible ink could be purchased easily from Thailand and that it will be misused in the March 8 polls.

Compare what is now said by Hamid Albar with what is reported to have been said by Musa and Rashid.

Were we, the rakyat, lied to earlier?

At best, Rashid has proven himself to be a bungling incompetent for having failed to put in place legislative amendments to overcome the legal difficulties in implementing the use of the indelible ink at the 12th GE.

At its worst, we are staring at a despicable conspiracy involving the EC chairman, the AG and the IGP and God knows who else to defraud voters at the last elections.