KOTA KINABALU: The Election Commission (EC) needs to have enforcement powers if election offences are to be reduced and for Malaysia to become a truly democratic nation, says Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abd Rahman (pic).
The Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) chairman said this would reduce their dependency on police and other security agencies when handling election-related offences.
He said this was among the 49 recommendations for amendments to the Election Offences Act.
"For now, the EC is toothless and can't even issue compounds. We hope it will be able to 'bite' offenders with these proposed amendments," he said during a workshop with representatives from non-governmental organisations and local political parties here on Wednesday (Aug 12).
Abdul Rashid said he was confident this proposal and the previous workshops held to gather feedback from the public and stakeholders would not go to waste.
"Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has asked us to continue with what we are doing as he agrees that the nation needs it," he said, adding that the recommendation papers will be handed in to the Prime Minister before September this year.
He said they are working on finding a mechanism to discourage and ultimately stop party-hopping after elections, but these would not involve any anti-hopping laws.
Abdul Rashid said he could not reveal details but said it would rely on other existing laws to make it work.
He explained that having written dos and don'ts during elections would not deter offenders without any enforcement and implementation of penalties.
Meanwhile, he said practices such as giving out food and drinks to voters should be done away with.
"This practice might be acceptable and even necessary in the old days when village folks needed to walk very far just to vote.. but now, I don't think it is necessary anymore," Abdul Rashid said.
"We hope to see electoral reforms take place – with no money politics involved – and this nation to be at par with other developed democratic nations such as Australia and New Zealand," he said.
In his opening speech, Abdul Rashid chided political leaders who refused to attend their workshops despite being invited.
"Every time we sent out invitations, many don't bother to respond. But when there is a proposal, they make noise, disagreeing to this and that," he said.
Among those not present were representatives from Umno, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia Sabah and Parti Warisan Sabah.
Those present included representatives from Upko, DAP, MCA, PKR, Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah and Sedar from Sarawak.
Non-governmental organisations present included Society for Equality, Respect and Trust for All Sabah (Serata), Sabah Law Society, Partners of Community Organisation (Pacos) Trust, Sabah Women's Action Resource Group (Sawo), Sabah Reform Initiative (Sari), Sabah Human Rights Centre and Tindak Malaysia (Sabah).
During the event, Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said some of the amendments are meant to make certain legislation more specific as some were too general for effective implementation.
He said he hoped to see the law become a workable and effective entity in the Malaysian Constitution in the future.
He thanked the EC for being involved in the organisation of the workshop right from the beginning more than a year ago.
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