Aliran is deeply shocked and disturbed by the Election Commission’s (EC) decision on Monday, 3 March – i.e. Four days before polling – not to use indelible ink to mark the fingers of voters immediately after they have cast their votes.
For months now, the EC has been saying that it was going to introduce the indelible ink marking to enhance the integrity of the polling process so that no one can vote more than once. And for months now, the various political parties, civil society and the electorate have looked forward to this new system as a key strategy to enhance confidence among all that each voter will only be allowed to cast a single vote in this election.
Now, at the eleventh hour, the EC shockingly makes an inexcusable and unconscionable U-turn that destroys all confidence in the way they are managing the whole electoral process. Instead of ensuring credibility, their actions have only created suspicion and outright distrust. The public perception of the EC’s supposed impartiality is now in tatters. Indeed, the EC is now perceived as little more than an extension of the Barisan Nasional, a perception that is inimical to the conduct of free and fair elections as many fear that the EC is “colluding with the BN to allow cheating in the elections”.
Already there is talk that massive fraud will be a feature in this election. The talk is further fuelled by the EC’s completely irresponsible actions giving credence to such a possibility.
Aliran also regards the reasons advanced by the EC Chairperson – that the EC is cancelling the use of indelible ink for reasons of ‘public order and security’ – as utterly preposterous. Where is the evidence that ‘public order and security’ is in jeopardy?
According to the Inspector-General of Police “four people had lodged reports – two in Perlis and one each in Kelantan and Kedah – claiming that certain individuals had smuggled in the ink from neighbouring countries to be used on polling day”. These reports were apparently lodged between 16 February and 21 February. The first report, it must be noted, was made 16 days before it was disclosed to the public on 3 March. In other words, the police had 11-16 days to investigate the allegations. Did they unearth such a plot? Was any ink of substantial quantity confiscated?
As it stands at this moment, these are only allegations without a shred of evidence to support the EC’s decision not to use the indelible ink to prevent fraudulent voting.
The whole argument for calling off the use of the indelible ink sounds ridiculous as it appears that the decision was made on an assumption without any supporting evidence.
As if the whole episode wasn’t ludicrous enough, the Attorney-General had to come on board to add to the absurdity of the decision. According to this learned personage, “We just cannot go against the constitution. Initially the government also supported the use of the ink if this could further convince the people of a free and fair election. We thought we could just introduce it without realising it requires amendments to the law.”
Aliran finds it difficult to believe that the EC and the Attorney-General’s Chambers had completely overlooked this requirement. Isn’t it a basic requirement? But they remembered to amend the constitution to extend the service of the EC’s Chairman for another year!
If the EC had been sincere and serious in the first place, then they would have left no stone unturned to ensure that the voting would be free and fair.
Aliran Executive Committee
6 March 2008