EC no. 2 grilled in public over ‘powerless’ claim

(Harakah Daily) – “We are powerless” and “we don’t make decisions” summarise the explanation by Election Commission deputy chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar yesterday’s packed public dialogue organised by Malay daily Sinar Harian at the Shah Alam headquarters of its publisher Karangkraf.

Titled “What next after July 9”, the forum, moderated by NGO activist Wan Saiful Wan Jan, also featured Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Shamsul Amri Baharuddin.

Giving his reasons on why the EC could not fulfill Bersih’s eight demands for electoral reforms, Wan Ahmad was at pains to emphasise that the Commission was not a law-making body and as such was powerless to amend laws. Several times during his explanation, the audience jeered at him, prompting the organising committee members to appeal for calm.

Wan Ahmad described the EC as an “election management” body.

“The most we can do is to propose the law to the AG (Attorney General) Chambers. The law drafted by AG Chambers will go to Parliament for debate.

“The government in power, anyone who rules the country, will have the advantage to determine the policy of the government,” he told in response to questions on EC’s reluctance to positively respond to Bersih.

Passing the buck to the Attorney General, Wan Ahmad, who many times referred to the audience as “Pakatan Rakyat” much to the chagrin of the moderator, said any party that wished to push for electoral reforms must approach the “right person”.

  “So you please understand the process of law making in the country,” he added.

Asked by Wan Saiful whether the problem was with Barisan Nasional as the federal government, Wan Ahmad only attracted more jeers from the crowd when he said it was the government’s right as it had been voted by the people.

“If you all become the government also, you all will do the same thing,” he remarked, before quickly adding that EC should not viewed as enemy.

Pressured by the crowd’s response, Wan Ahmad than went on the offensive:

“You do not understand that the EC operates under many other laws like the Police Act, the Sedition Act. Don’t push the blame on us… maybe those present are not ready for a discussion like this.”

‘EC should not act like BN’

Ambiga meanwhile refuted claims that Bersih 2.0 was an opposition outfit, and said that it had earlier invited all political parties to play a role in the movement.

“Had the government (parties) come aboard, there would be a wonderful discussion between all parties, but they chose not to. That’s their decision. The opposition chose to come abroad and support us and I am grateful for their support.  

“Not just opposition, other NGOs, ordinary Malaysians… If you look at the profiles of the people who were out there (in July 9 rally),  the ordinary Malaysians have been the supporters of Bersih.

“Why is everyone treating the opposition like they are not rakyat Malaysia? I don’t understand. They are also rakyat Malaysia,” she stressed.

“So, who is staying out and who’s in? That’s my question,” asked Ambiga.

Ambiga also chided Wan Ahmad for accusing Bersih of treating the EC as an enemy.

“Datuk Wan, you said we are treating EC as the enemy. I think you are treating us as the enemy,” she replied to applause from the crowd.

Ambiga added that EC should be above partisan politics and not behave like it was Barisan Nasional.

“I think that’s where the problem is,” she quipped.

“No power”

On the claim that EC was powerless to push for electoral reforms, she cited clauses from the Federal Constitution which stated that EC was a powerful body.

Ambiga said that Article 115 (2) spelt out that public authorities must cooperate and assist with the EC in discharging its duties.