Malaysia’s 13th General Elections which will be held on Sunday the 5th of May promises to be the most important in the history of the country. For the first time in half a century, the urge for change on the ground, from among the people is so great, so powerful that there is a real chance for change.
However, as the clock ticks down towards polling day, concerns have been raised over increasing cases of irregularities perpetrated by the ruling coalition, which is facing the biggest challenge to its power yet, and carried out by the machinery of the state which it controls. These irregularities include possible voter fraud, and an attempt to sow fear and discord among the people of Malaysia.
In an event entitled Malaysia’s Struggle For The Survival of Its Democracy, the diplomatic community met up with members of NGOs and members of the Opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat. The aim of this dialogue session was to enlighten the international community of the challenges faced by the Opposition in their quest for a free and fair election.
36 representatives, including Ambassadors, from 34 Embassies and High Commissions in Malaysia turned up for this event to hear the following concerned Malaysians speak – Mr Chua Tian Chang @ Tian Chua – outgoing MP for Batu and candidate for the Batu Parliamentary seats, Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar – outgoing MP for Lembah Pantai and candidate for that same seat in this election, Mr Sivarasa Rasiah – outgoing MP for Subang and candidate for Subang, and Mr Haris Ibrahim – the founder of the NGOs The People’s Parliament and ABU.
Speaking first Tian Chua exposed that the so-called indelible ink, which was introduced for these elections after pressure from NGOs and the Opposition was not that indelible. He revealed that after early voting carried out by army and police personnel, a number of reports have been lodged showing that instead of 7 days, as previously promised, the ink wore off in just a few hours. This raises the possibility of voters being able to vote twice.
Another concern he raised was of how the Elections Commission (EC) has added 300,000 postal voters to the electoral roll, comprising EC workers and media personnel. These postal votes, he said, are not transparent, and the question as to why they need to be postal votes rather than early votes has not been satisfactorily answered by the Elections Commission.
Echoing Tian Chua’s concerns on the indelible ink and postal voters, Nurul Izzah Anwar also highlighted disturbing cases of increased political violence carried out by members of ruling coalition against Opposition members. She revealed that she herself had been ‘chased out’ of some housing areas in her constituency by machete-branding members of the ruling party.
She therefore called upon the assembled guests to put pressure on the government, on caretaker Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, so that such intimidation will stop. She also reaffirmed the commitment of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition to peaceful transaction and announced that word has been given to supporters to not be provoked.
Speaking next, Sivarasa Rasiah touched upon the issue of media coverage, or rather the lack of positive mainstream media coverage, and highlighted how the mainstream press is playing up issues of race and religion to create a sense of antipathy, fear and hatred for the Opposition particularly amongst rural voters, who owing to the gerrymandering of constituencies, have a larger voice than urban voters.
He also revealed that more than 40,000 voters have been flown from Sabah to Kuala Lumpur, on specially chartered flights, which is a clear violation of the law which forbids candidates from paying for the transport of voters, and expressed scepticism over the explanation that these flights were sponsored by ‘friends’ of the ruling party.
Haris Ibrahim continued highlighting the issue of this suspicious transportation of voters, and said that since late April, more than 16 chartered flights have been flown into KLIA each day. He revealed that he and his colleagues were at the airport last night, and observed the suspicious activities where foreigners were brought from abroad on a chartered flight and ferried out using government vehicles. The suspicion, he said, is that the ruling party is colluding with the Electoral Commission, to carry out voter fraud by giving identity cards to non-Malaysians.
He also exposed the plan to stir up anger by screening the controversial film Tanda Putera on mainstream television on the eve of the elections, in the hope of sowing hatred among the young Malays for Malaysian Chinese. Furthermore, he revealed how the government through the mainstream media is using anti-Semitic and anti-Christian sentiments to create this sense of fear and hatred among the Malay community for the Opposition.
Following this, during the Q&A session that followed, members of the audience raised questions about Malaysia’s electoral system and how fraud could be propagated in this seemingly transparent system. In-depth clarifications were provided by the panellists where they explained how multiple-voting could take place because of the failure of the indelible ink system and flawed electoral roll, and the existence of phantom voters and non-qualified foreigners who are given fake ICs to vote.
This was followed by tea during which more discussions were held. As a result, the diplomatic community gained more in-depth understanding of the challenges towards a free and fair election that has been hoped for by the People of Malaysia in this coming election.
Coverage by International Business Review.