PSC: A tactic to delay, deny and confuse?


By P Ramakrishnan, Aliran President

When the Prime Minister announced the setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee on 15 August 2011, a friend rang up to ask me what I thought of it. My immediate response was, “It is a tactic to delay, deny and confuse Malaysians!”

What has transpired since then only seems to confirm this observation.

The onus is with the government now to dispel this notion. And the only way to do it is to give a public pledge to the nation that parliament will not be dissolved any time before the PSC completes its work and presents its findings to parliament to put in place the reformation that is urgently required to ensure free and fair elections.

This undertaking is absolutely necessary to convince Malaysians that there was sincerity and commitment on the part of the PM in setting up this PSC. We need to be assured that the Barisan Nasional government will go all the way to implement the reforms that are demanded by the people.

But what was confusing to Malaysians was the statement made by the PM nine days later that the next general election can be held anytime and will not be bound by the findings of the PSC on electoral reforms. This is perplexing!

In order to call for elections, parliament has to be dissolved and when that is done the PSC lapses. He would have effectively scuttled the PSC and sent it into oblivion. The truth of the matter is that the life of the PSC doesn’t go beyond the life span of the current parliament. When that is the case, then what is the purpose in setting up the PSC to look at the necessary electoral reforms?

By dissolving parliament before the PSC completes its duties entrusted to it, the PM will immediately deny all Malaysians the electoral reforms that were promised by setting up the PSC. Not only that, he will inevitably delay the promised reforms indefinitely.

History would suggest that the BN has no intention of introducing any meaningful reforms. Since the last Bersih Rally in 2007, the BN had two years to rectify this problem. The four demands of Bersih in 2007 were:

  • The use of indelible ink (which was already been agreed to by the Electoral Commission, but later scrapped);
  • A clean-up of the registered voters’ roll;
  • Abolition of postal votes; and
  • Access to the government-controlled print and broadcast media for opposition parties.

The BN government did nothing to address these issues. And these four demands have now become part of the eight demands of Bersih 2.0.

In reality there were only four new demands in 2011: