Seeds of Bersih in Patto’s last speech

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The last speech by the late opposition stalwart P Patto in 1995 contained the seeds of the call for electoral reform, which has since blossomed into the full-fledged demands of Bersih 2.0.

12 July 2011 was the 16th anniversary of P Patto’s death – just three day after the historical Bersih rally.

I was in his office when he was busy typing away nonchalantly just like he usually did. But this time when I asked him what all the typing was about, instead of giving me an answer, he reached out his hand and picked a sheet of paper and passed it to me. I read it and never for one moment thought that this was to be his last speech.

I feel it is the appropriate moment to share his last speech (in verbatim) which I believe echoes the call of Bersih 2.0 for clean and fair elections.

– Choo Sing Chye, regular contributor to Aliran.

Speech by DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Bagan, P Patto, during the debate on the Motion of Thanks for the 1995 Royal Address in June, 1995 in the Dewan Rakyat

The Barisan Nasional’s massive victory in the nation’s ninth general elections must be attributed to the unfair, unfree, unclean elections.

No one can deny the fact that the Barisan Nasional received a more than convincing fresh mandate to rule for another five years at the Federal level. But, did this victory come about from a fair, free, and clean election?

The nation’s ninth general elections goes down in history as the most unfair, unfree and unclean elections. The government, however, contends that this great victory is reflective of the wisdom of the different communities in the country and that it represents Malaysia’s achievement in establishing a dynamic democratic process.

Right from the voters registration exercise to the redelineation of constituencies to nomination and polling days, there was nothing dynamic. In fact, one is left wondering whether the body – the Election Commission – that is fully entrusted with the job of conducting voter registration exercises, redelineation of constituencies, and the general elections, carried out its duties and responsibilities in the true spirit of democracy.

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The Election Commission, established under Article 114 of the Federal Constitution, is appointed by the Yang diPertuan Agong after consultation with the Conference of Rulers, and in appointing its members the Yang diPertuan Agong shall have regard to the importance of securing an Election Commission which enjoys public confidence.

But the manner in which the Election Commission had conducted itself over the years leaves one to wonder whether the Commission enjoys public confidence. Since the Commission is the sole body responsible for all matters connected with elections and is not a body responsible to the Prime Minister or the Executive, it must be an all ¬powerful body which should not bow to the dictates of the Prime Minister or the Executive. It should, by its actions, show that it is an independent body.

But, unfortunately, the Commission had not been as independent as it ought to be. There have been occasions where the views of the Commission have been brushed aside by the arrogant Executive or the party in power. And as a result, the Commission is seen as a body that is an appendage of the Prime Minister’s Department.

For example, even as early as six years ago, the Commission had proposed that the total ban on public rallies imposed on the eve of the 1978 general elections be lifted. But the proposal was shot down by the Executive and party in power. And just before the ninth general elections this year, the Commission had again proposed that it was time that public rallies be allowed. Again, the proposal was shot down by the Executive and Barisan Nasional leaders. The Executive and the party in power seem to have utter disregard for the views of the Election Commission.

He had also said that when there were longer campaign periods, there was lots of tension and therefore, it was better to have a shorter campaign period.

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It is highly improper for the Prime Minister to determine the number of days to be fixed for campaign in an election when that comes within the powers of the Election Commission. Under existing election laws, it is the Election Commission which determines when nomination and polling should be held in any election – be it a general election or a by-election. This being so, the Prime Minister’s announcement means that he has now taken over the powers of the Election Commission in determining the number of days to be allowed for campaign during any election. His actions are a clear usurpation of the powers of the Election Commission.

The Prime Minister should stop telling the Election Commission what to do. If he continues with his interference in the work of the Election Commission and the usurpation of its powers, then the Prime Minister himself might as well become the Commission itself.

The Prime Minister and the Executive must allow the Election Commission to operate independently and not subject it to constant subservience.

In theSun daily today, the Prime Minister had made very wild unfounded allegations against the DAP. He had alleged that the DAP wants more days to campaign to “bakar hati orang” . This is most unbecoming of a Prime Minister to put fear in the hearts and minds of the people. There are sufficient laws in the country to rope in anyone who contravenes them when campaigning. So, why does he fear a longer campaign period when the campaign period in the past before 1986 and 1990 general elections had always been longer that the 16 days that he had announced?

He had made a mischievous statement by claiming that the 1969 riots took place as a result of the DAP’s campaign. The Prime Minister is twisting historical facts. In fact, it was the then Umno which (allegedly) started the riots when it, together with its Alliance partners, namely MCA and MIC, lost power in Selangor when it won only 14 of the 28 State seats.

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The Prime Minister wants to instil fear and hope that the voters will vote the Barisan Nasional out of the fear instilled by him and his men. The Prime Minister should stop this tactic and resort to cleaner campaigns.

I have made a check with the electoral records of Malaysia and have found some interesting revelations about the number of days of campaign during every election since 1959.

The above table shows that during the first Prime Minister’s (the late Tunku Abdul Rahman) reign, more than one month of campaign period had been allowed between nomination and polling day.

During the reign of the late Tun Abdul Razak, it was slashed to 16 days. However, the period between actual dissolution of Parliament and polling was 24 days.

During the time when the late Tun Hussein Onn was Prime Minister, the period between actual dissolution of Parliament and polling was 26 days.

And during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first general election as Prime Minister, the campaign period between actual dissolution and polling was 24 days. And if you take into account his announcement of dissolution of Parliament, then the campaign period was 32 days.

When he went into his second and this general election, the campaign periods were drastically slashed.

This does not speak well of a Prime Minister who has been “confident of wiping out” the Opposition. And if he now claims of being more liberal than before, then he should stop usurping the powers of the Election Commission in determining the number of days for campaign.

The Election Commission should allow at least a period of 28 days for campaign between nomination and polling. And there should be at least a period of seven to 14 days between actual dissolution and nomination.

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Isma
27 Jul 2011 3.12pm

If the act of the PM, in usurping the power of the Election Commission to determine the number of campaigning days is not an act of waging war on the Yang diPertuan Agong, what is it?