EC: Observers must be impartial

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 01 Oct 2003

PETALING JAYA: International observers wanting to come to witness the general election here must be given extensive lessons about the Malaysian culture and way of life, said Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman. 

“Other conditions should also be imposed to ensure that they do not meddle in the political affairs of this country in the process of carrying out their functions as observers,” he told senior editors from 27 media organisations here yesterday. 

The EC chief expressed reservations about a recent suggestion by an opposition leader for such observers to be invited for the next general election. 

Relating a bitter experience he had with such foreign observers in one past election, he said their minds were “wrongly focused on certain political issues, which should not form part of their business here”. 

Abdul Rashid revealed that the first thing the observers did when they landed was to go and see members of the opposition parties. 

“I thought then it was all right for them to do so except that when they started their actual observation work, they were already convinced that elections in this country were never fair or free and polls were conducted unprofessionally. 

“What became most painful to me was that the peaceful environment on election day, the large turnout of voters, the orderly conduct of polling and counting, the obvious presence of freedom for people to make their choice in the polling booth gave little evidence that electoral democracy was working in this country,” he added. 

Abdul Rashid suggested that if observers were to be invited, they must represent countries whose “political and social environment not only appeared similar to ours but also the electoral system.” 

On calls by some quarters for the existing electoral system to be changed to other systems like the proportional system, he said most Malaysians preferred the present first-past-the-post system. 

Abdul Rashid said changes to the system should only be made when the social, political and economic conditions of the country were strong and the majority of the people wanted change. 

“The choice of an electoral system needs to be made with desired goals in mind and Malaysia’s electoral system has in fact guaranteed political inclusiveness and representations for all, irrespective of race, religion, social or geographical origins and backgrounds,” he added. 

On the EC’s role in the electoral process, Abdul Rashid said earning the confidence of the people was considered the most challenging task for the commission, and so far it had managed to earn that credit over the past 10 general elections. 

But he also said that certain sections of the political community were still not satisfied with the EC despite the fact that its key officials were appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. 

“The EC does not seem to be answerable to anyone but the King. Ironically, the general public had formed their own conclusion that the appointment would be made only with the agreement of the Prime Minister although it is not stated in the Constitution. 

“This kind of malaise creates the obvious suspicion that the members, especially the chairman, must always endeavour to please the master, and although not well-founded, somehow I consider it as a reasonable suspicion.” 

To these critics, he said no amount of explanation could allay their misgivings.  

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