OPPOSITION parties should train lawyers to be their polling agents as they are well-versed with the law and could be “tough enough” to stand up for their candidates, said Ambiga Sreenevasan.
The National Human Rights Society (Hakam) chairperson spoke of her experience running an election watchdog in the 2013 general election, and said lawyers as polling agents would be able to detect fraud.
“I strongly urge all candidates to get good, tough election agents because they are the ones who make a difference,” she told a forum in Kuala Lumpur today.
She said the opposition lost a lot of ground in GE13 because the polling agents, counting agents and election agents were not tough enough or did not know enough.
“Some of the seats were lost because they were not asserting the rights of their candidates,” said Ambiga, who was former co-chairperson of Bersih, a civil society group advocating for free and fair elections.
Ambiga called on civil society groups to provide training to lawyers detect fraud.
“This is a suggestion to ‘Tindak’ and other groups who are training (election) agents, train lawyers! If there are lawyers who are prepared to do it, you should volunteer.
“Of course it is up to the parties whether they would accept them as election agents.
“But it is better to know the law, know the regulations, know every bit of it so well, and not be afraid to stand up for their candidate.”
Electoral reform group Tindak Malaysia has said there is a need for electoral agents to prevent fraud and is targeting to train more than 150,000 Pacabas (polling, counting and barung agents).
“It is too big a task. Rather, it is more effective to train lawyers as election agents (Wakil Calon) for the candidates. That is less than 1,000. If the Bar Council can put up the lawyers, we are happy to train them,” Ambiga said.
Others who spoke were Penang Institute fellow Wong Chin Huat and Tindak Malaysia mapping consultant Danesh Prakash Chacko.
Ambiga said electoral fraud from the 2013 election included the moving of ballot boxes, phantom voters and fraudulent addresses.
She said opposition candidates had lost all their petitions after the 2013 election in the courts with “huge amount” of costs awarded against them.
“The amount put off a lot of people. Many didn’t proceed with their appeals,” she said.
“I won’t talk about the independence of the Election Commission. That you can see for yourselves. That is what we are up against. The people are going to have to step in and do something.”
Ambiga said the lack of redress in the courts culminated in the 2015 Federal Court’s dismissal of Pakatan Rakyat’s application to nullify the results of the 2013 general election following questionable conducts by the EC.
“I was horrified the courts were not horrified. I was actually uncomfortable they were comfortable with it. That they accepted the explanation given to them.
“Their judgement basically was the EC is carrying out a constitutional process and we will not interfere. But what we were trying to urge upon them was you do have to interfere when they (EC) acted unconstitutionally,” she said.
“The Election Commission … they have a 100% win,” she said, commenting on the petitions and electoral disputes that were lost in the Court of Appeal or the apex court.
Meanwhile, Wong said EC’s second notice on its redelineation exercise for Selangor had failed to resolve the disparity of voters in the state.
He said at least 98% of the Selangor’s electors remained untouched from the last redelineaton exercise in 2003, with only 40,395 affected out of the state’s 2.08 million voters.
Danesh urged voters to financially support any remaining court cases on redelineation matters.
“Vote for political parties who are committed to electoral reforms. Check your voter details regularly especially if you are in a marginal seat and support any objections financially and in person to stop suspicious voters.
“Finally vote early,” he said.
The 14th general election must be held latest by August 23, 60 days after the automatic dissolution of Parliament on June 24.
A total of 222 parliamentary seats and 505 state seats, excluding Sarawak, will be contested. – February 21, 2018.