SNEAK AMENDMENT TO LEGALISE PHANTOM VOTERS?

(Urgent Message for Voters in Likas) 20.07.2001

There appears to be a sneak attempt by the Prime Minister, with collusion from the press, to make a major amendment to the Constitution affecting vital citizenship right without attracting public attention. Among other implications, this amendment will place phantom voters beyond the reach of law, many tens of thousands of them consisting of illegal Philippine and Indonesian immigrants are now concentrated in Sabah.

Following the solitary revelation by the Sun yesterday (19th July) on imminent amendment to the Federal Constitution (Article 119) to make a gazetted electoral roll beyond judicial challenge, there is a black out of news on the subject proper of this issue in the press today.

The few newspapers that touch on the subject of constitutional amendment to voter registration today have completely omitted the mention of the most important part of the amendment, which is that a electoral roll, once gazetted, is beyond the jurisdiction of the court. Instead, they carry misleading statements from Mahathir, which have the effect of hiding the truth from the public. Mahathir was quoted as saying:

¡§The amendments are only routine and nothing radical. Currently, there are too many questions and uncertainties. The amendments will make voter registration more definitive.¡¨ Mahathir also stated that the main thrust of the amendments was to allow voter registration to take place all year round.

And so, by focusing attention on the new rule of year round registration, and with the complicity of the press to cover up the vital part of the amendment, Mahathir hopes to ram through the amendment without much ado.

Not a word was mentioned on the all important issue of whether it is right and constitutional to bar judicial review over the legality of an electoral roll, or whether there is the slightest justification to make the authority of the Election Commission in accepting voters so sacrosanct that it is above the law of the country.

There is no doubt that the journalists in this Country have sufficient intelligence to recognize the most important element of these amendments and the great significance it bears on the spirit of our Constitution and the principles of democracy. Then why all the silence, or beating around the bush to mislead and deceive the public? If this is not collusion (whether voluntary or involuntary) with the ruling power to sabotage our Constitution and democracy, then what is? This is a classic example of the degraded state that the local press has found itself in, after decades of corrupt autocratic rule, where the local newspapers are either voluntarily sycophantic or browbeaten to play servile roles.

Back to the issue. Should the Election Commission be given such absolute power, beyond judicial review? The answer would be a resounding no, even in an advanced democracy, where the election commission is truly independent and its integrity beyond reproach. This is because such an idea is simply incompatible with the concept of democracy and the rule of law. No executive decision should be above the law, least of all one concerning the paramount constitutional right in a democracy ¡V the right to choose a government. Besides, there is no conceivable justification for it.

In the context of Malaysia, where the rule of law is dubious, and its Election Commission riddled with scandals, the proposal to so empower the Election Commission can only be construed in the poorest of light. It is nothing less than a naked attempt, among other implications, to legalise the tens of thousands of phantom voters in Sabah, found in a recent court judgment to be ¡§only the tip of the iceberg¡¨.

The Election Commission¡¦s miserable track record of complete subservience to the wishes of the ruling party, combined with the ruling party¡¦s notoriety in perpetuating election abuses and frauds, makes the prospect too dreadful to contemplate, should the Election Commission (EC) be entrusted with such absolute authority. Where can Malaysians look for redress when the EC stuffs the electoral roll with phantoms like what it has so successfully done in Sabah? Will there be any more meaning left in our election process, when phantom voters often become the arbiters in tightly fought elections, keeping in mind that our elections are already stripped of their democratic meanings due to ruling party¡¦s heavy abuses of government institutions and resources and mass media to work exclusively in its favour, not to mention the habitual frauds?

Mahathir has used the excuse of current ¡§questions and uncertainties¡¨ in the electoral roll to justify his proposed amendment. But such excuse is self-defeatist. It is precisely due to the lack of an efficient review mechanism that the phantom voter scourge has crept into the electoral roll, thereby causing ¡§questions and uncertainties¡¨ referred to by Mahathir. Hence, by removing judicial review (which is the ultimate review) as proposed by Mahathir, EC¡¦s already weak review mechanism will be fatally weakened. It is like pouring oil to extinguish a fire.

The problem with our EC is that it lacks independence, integrity and efficiency. It is too eager to play fiddle to the ruling power UMNO, which unfortunately was found in a recent court judgment to have played a significant role in the massive phantom voter scam in Sabah.

In the recent Judgment nullifying the Likas election, Justice Muhammad Kamil has given detailed evidence, outlining the frightening scenario of what a ruthless government hell bent to gain political power can do to undermine the country¡¦s own sovereignty. Massive campaigns have been carried out to register illegal immigrants as voters for the sole purpose of bolstering the ruling party¡¦s electoral strength. In the process of doing so, the integrity of government institutions such as the Election Commission, National Registration Department and the police are destroyed in order to accommodate these illegal exercises. Official objections to tens of thousands of phantom voters have been ruthlessly brushed aside with impunity, in clear contravention of the election laws. Needless to say, Sabahans are now facing looming threats to their security and democratic rights from the formidable presence of these illegal immigrants, now posing as citizens and voters, thanks to UMNO¡¦s lawlessness and callous disregard to the people¡¦s welfare.

In the light of these circumstances, is it not suicidal to our democracy by allowing such an amendment to our Constitution whereby the unbridled authority of the Election Commission becomes comparable to the unbridled power of the police under the abominable Internal Security Act?

Kim Quek

Jumlah pembaca:orang.