PAS uses Altantuya to warn against abuse of postal votes

Written by Chua Sue-Ann, The Edge  

PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub today evoked the spectre of murdered Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu in issuing a stern warning to government and Election Commission (EC) officials not to partake in any abuse of postal votes in the Bagan Pinang by-election.

“Remember the issue of Altantuya. If someone else does something wrong, it is government officials that will be blamed. If someone else may have done something wrong, it is security personnel that will become the victims,” Salahuddin told a press conference here today.

Salahuddin was referring to Altantuya’s controversial death where two special action squad officers Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar were found guilty of her murder and sentenced to death in April.

The high profile murder trial, which spanned a record 159 days, gripped the nation’s attention and drew international media coverage for the gruesome manner in which Altantuya was believed to be killed.

Altantuya, an interpreter, was said to be shot twice in her face before military-grade explosives were detonated on her body in a jungle clearing in Puncak Alam, Shah Alam between Oct 19 and Oct 20, 2006.

Salahuddin, who is leading PAS’ election campaign in Bagan Pinang, also said the party had prepared a system to prevent the abuse of postal votes but declined to elaborate on it at this point, saying the system was part of their strategy.

On Wednesday, PAS Central Elections Director Datuk Abdul Rahman Abdul Rahim is scheduled to lead the party’s delegation to meet EC Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof in Putrajaya to voice its concerns on postal votes, including findings of alleged “double voters”.

This will be the second meeting between PAS and the EC in relation to the Bagan Pinang polls. Both parties met on Sept 14, where PAS attempted to propose a review of the postal voting system.

On the “double voters”, Salahuddin claimed PAS had a list of several hundred army personnel who were registered to vote in different places, based on their military identification numbers and national identification card number.

Ballot casting by military personnel is fixed for Oct 8 and Oct 9, ahead of the Oct 11 date set for the rest of the Bagan Pinang constituency.

“Oct 10 is the question mark,” Salahuddin said, adding that the party was “suspicious” about would happen to the postal votes on that date.

“We are not accusing BN but we have a right to be suspicious,” said Salahuddin, who is Kubang Kerian member of parliament.

Met later, Abdul Rahim said he would remind the EC chief to ensure that whatever was decided at their meetings would be implemented by the military camps during polling.

On whether PAS was confident of winning postal votes, Abdul Rahim said “If the army is free, I am confident but there is a fear factor at play here. It could be difficult.”

During the general election last year, PAS’ Ramli Ismail managed to obtain 1,189 or 25% of the postal votes.

This places high expectations for PAS candidate Zulkefly Mohamad Omar to either defend or increase the margin in an uphill battle against Barisan Nasional’s (BN) candidate Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad, who was Negeri Sembilan menteri besar for more than two decades.

Postal votes, which are considered a reliable source of votes for the BN, have been a source of anxiety to opposition parties who alleged abuse of voting process due to the purported lack of transparency.

The beach-side semi-urban constituency has a sizable number of postal voters, with postal voters making up 4,604 of the 13,664 voters.

The 4,604 postal voters comprises 4,571 military personnel, 31 police officers and two overseas students.

Bagan Pinang has 13,664 voters of whom 8,577 or 62.77% are Malays, 1,498 (10.96%) Chinese, 2,834 (20.74%) Indians and others, 755 (5.54%).