BY RAMON NAVARATNAM
The Election Commission (EC) should serve us Malaysians – the rakyat, the voters and our country, much better and be more dutiful in discharging its onerous duties.
The current trust deficit in our country will deepen if EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof takes the line that the Automatic Electoral Registration system cannot be implemented since the Barisan Nasional does not have a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Why does he have to get involved in politics and degrade the independence and integrity of the EC?
Why does he assume that the loyal opposition will not support good reforms and that only the government can and will do so?
Does he not realise that the dutiful opposition would support a good government amendment, in the interest of the nation and public?
Let us ,the voters, judge the government and the opposition MPs, on how they will vote for Constitutional amendments and, please Aziz , do not anticipate or second guess the parliamentarians and politicians.
Assistant registrar officers
Apparently, the previous practice of allowing political parties to use their own registered assistant registrar officers (ARO), has been disallowed recently. As a result, new government AROs have been appointed , mostly from government agencies. But the new government AROs have registered relatively fewer new voters.
They have not shown enough diligence, speed nor even sufficient commitment, to get more Malaysians to register to vote in the next general election.
Consequently, the net increase in new voters has been dismal, despite stronger growth in the eligible voting population.
Indeed, if the responsibility to register new voters is still enjoyed by the political party agents, the registration of more new voters, would have been much more successful.
The rakyat will now ask whether it is the policy of the EC, to increase or lower voter registration?
Worse still, the public may think that the EC is under pressure to prevent or discourage the registration of new voters!
Our government has the responsibility to current and prospective voters, to explain the true position or risk greater trust deficits at both Federal and state government levels!
So, why not revert to the previous effective policy of allowing the opposition to appoint their own AROs? Then we will get more Malaysians to register to vote, as should be the case.
In order to prevent any doubts on the integrity of the EC and also to ensure that more eligible Malaysians are registered to vote, it is imperative that Article 119 of the Constitution be amended as soon as possible to introduce “automatic voter registration”.
This amendment will enhance the human rights of the Rakyat and will surely benefit the election process and strengthen parliamentary democracy in itself.
It will remove the suspicion that “state capture” is being used, to prevent the large numbers of younger Malaysians from registering to vote?
Challenges for politicians and the people
Hence the challenges facing all political parties and the EC as well as the rakyat, are for all of us to initiate quick consultations and legislative action, to amend the Constitution, to enable automatic registration – well before the next general election in about two years.
In the meantime, the rakyat and the Bersih election reform group, led by Maria Chin Abdullah, could start a campaign to introduce automatic voter registration in our country.
I would also appeal to all my fellow citizens to have our own humble individual campaigns, such as “each citizen persuading at least one fellow citizen to register to vote” or “each one register one voter”.
Bersih could also monitor the progress of this critical electoral constitutional reform campaign, for all Malaysians to better understand and fully appreciate, who is for and who are against, sound electoral reforms, and indeed good governance.
Such a move would benefit all Malaysians, if not all the politicians.
I therefore appeal to the EC to be more professional and to serve our people and country more diligently with greater integrity and commitment. Then the widely perceived trust deficit in the EC in particular and the government in general, will be considerably reduced and not increased?
I hope that the government listens to the rakyat and responds favourably in the broad public’s long-term interests and not necessarily, mainly in the narrow political short-term interests?
This could be our wish for a happy and better new year. – December 28, 2015.
* Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam is chairman of Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies.