A Question Of Faith

By Mariam Mokhtar

This is a well-worn joke in Malaysian diplomatic circles.

A Malaysian trade delegation official who had just secured his first ever foreign posting in one of the Malaysian High Commissions in a European capital was in high spirits after casting his postal vote for one of the general elections. He had, for the first time in his life, voted according to his conscience (which in his case, meant not voting for BN).

When he left work and waited for his train at the station, the doubts began to creep in. He began to have disturbing thoughts that he would be summoned and recalled to Putrajaya, for a dressing-down, and his family would be disgraced, all because the authorities discovered which party he had voted for.

He made a U-turn and rushed back to the High Commission and saw the official in charge of voting and said, “Minta maaf, ya. I wrongly marked my voting slip.”

“Correct. Correct. Correct,” said the official and the man feared the worst, his career in tatters.

However, the official smiled reassuringly and said, “Don’t worry. It was lucky we noticed your error in time and have already made the correction. Lain kali, just be more careful. Can or not?”

Recently, in Malaysia, various people have come forward with evidence of manipulations of the electoral process by the government and its institutions, like the Election Commission (EC), the National Registration Department (NRD) and the armed forces.

Rather than address the serious implications of the allegations, these government bodies have only issued denials and in certain cases have threatened to make police reports against those who exposed these malpractices.

Are these civil servants not aware of the gravity of the situation? It appears that they are more concerned in protecting their image than seeing if there was any truth in the allegations.

It seems that they are part of the problem and that their intransigence is a clever ploy to hide the illegal practices of electoral fraud.

If Prime minister Najib Abdul Razak were to call the general election (GE-13) in the next few weeks, would anyone have any faith in the electoral process? Would they be absolutely sure that their vote won’t be counted accurately at the polling station?

Even if all the clone voters and foreigners who have suddenly been granted voting rights were excluded from voting, who is to know that at the very last minute, as a precaution and as its last line of defense, that BN would not switch over the ballot boxes and substitute ones containing predominantly BN only votes?

When opposition supporters say they will swarm all the polling stations and drive Umno/BN from power, do they realise that none of their votes would matter if a switch were to be made?

Remember how at various by-elections in the past, there have been power black-outs just at the crucial point, when the votes were to be counted? Are our memories of these common tricks that short?

Bersih has requested that Najib defers GE-13 till the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) has implemented its recommendations. Despite this, Najib has said that GE-13 can be called before the PSC has reached a decision.

A statement issued by Bersih said, “We note with disappointment the announcement made by Najib that the GE can be held anytime and will not depend on the proceedings of the PSC.

“This totally defeats the purpose and spirit of setting up the PSC as it is meant to resolve serious fraudulent practices in the electoral processes.

“The PSC would be pointless if Parliament is dissolved before the committee presents its report to Parliament”.

Najib has however said, “We will try; there must be something that can be done immediately.”

Najib’s lame statement does not indicate a serious commitment to resolve the problem of electoral fraud.

As in most things that this government does, there is simply no political will to do anything positive. It just mulls things over rather than committing itself. It makes empty promises, or simply reneges on its promises, as it did when it promised to allow the Bersih 2.0 rally to be held in a stadium.

In July, the EC deputy chief, Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, was asked if foreign observers would be allowed to observe GE-13. His response was, “They are foreigners, who are they? Why do we need foreigners, Germans commenting on our election system?”

“Elections observers must be domestic observers. Foreign observers, they don’t know our election laws, they don’t understand. It’s a different value system.”

Wan Ahmad stressed that our elections are clean and fair, and has indicated that he is powerless to implement reforms.

The rakyat, however, believes otherwise.

Najib will probably call for GE-13 at the end of October or early November this year. Although you may mistrust the electoral process and think that the government will cheat in the election, it is imperative that you cast your vote for the opposition, if you value change.

The government realises that with these international observers, the electoral process will be under greater and closer scrutiny, by the media and the Malaysian rakyat. We should therefore press for the presence of international monitors which our government has previously rejected.