Malaysia

60 names to one house, but Election Commission “powerless” to act, People’s Tribunal told

BY ELIZABETH ZACHARIAH
September 18, 2013
Latest Update: September 18, 2013 01:41 pm

Charles Santiago testifying at the Bersih People's Tribunal this morning. The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 18, 2013.Charles Santiago testifying at the Bersih People's Tribunal this morning. The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 18, 2013.The Election Commission (EC) could not do anything about irregularities on the electoral roll, the Bersih People's Tribunal heard today.

The first witness, Klang Member of Parliament Charles Santiago (pic), said he made complaints to the EC about dubious names on the roll.

"I highlighted to the EC in November about some 60 names registered to one house. The owner of the house had earlier told me that he had not consented to anyone using his address to register as a voter,” he said.

Santiago said the EC then conducted its own investigations and acknowledged that there was a problem.

"They admitted there were 60 names registered at the house but told me they could not do anything about it.

"They (the EC) said that the law does not allow change to the electoral roll," he added.

The tribunal was mooted in response to the public outcry and concerns of electoral fraud and irregularities in Malaysia’s 13th general election in May.

Santiago added that the houseowner was a political campaign staff with Barisan Nasional.

The MP discovered the irregularity with the address listed in Pandamaran, Klang, after getting his volunteers to vet through the electoral roll at the end of 2012.

Other irregularities found in the Klang constituency was that 3,457 names were not removed although the people listed had either passed away or had shifted, as in the case of policemen and their families who were transferred elsewhere.

Also, 2,195 voters were transferred to other constituencies in Selangor, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.

"Some 500 voters who had voted in Klang in previous elections were transferred out of the constituency. This is considered as a delineation exercise which must be approved by Parliament first but that never happened," Santiago told the panel.

The DAP lawmaker also brought the matter of voters being indiscriminately registered to court.

Coincidentally, the day that the judgment of the case was handed down was also the day that the Parliament was dissolved - rendering the cases invalid.

Santiago then read out statements from Malaysians overseas who complained that their names were on the electoral roll despite having lived abroad for years. They further claimed that they were registered themselves as voters.

According to Santiago, the Selangor Election Commision had admitted that they were aware that an Umno assistant registrar by the name of Hishammuddin Kassim had registered "many" dubious voters but no action was taken to rectify the situation.

The opposition politician also told the panel that police was involved in asking a non-voter to withdraw his report after the Malaysian who lives in England wanted his name removed from the roll since it was registered without his knowledge.

Disabled voter

Santiago also related a story of a physically-disabled man who was duped of his vote.

"The man had come with his daughter and the law allows one person to accompany a disabled person to help him to vote.

"However, the daughter was stopped and kept out of the polling room. The person-in-charge told the man that he would help this man to vote," he said.

However, after the voter had expressed his choice to vote for the DAP candidate, the EC official put a cross next to the Barisan Nasional candidate's name on the ballot paper, the politician told the 160 people gathered at the Empire Hotel this morning.

"The man then told the daughter what had happened and the daughter blew her top.

"She then demanded that her father be allowed to vote again, Santiago said, adding that he was not sure if the disabled man had voted again.

After being on the stand for almost two hours, Santiago was then interrupted when the Bersih People's Tribunal organising committee legal head Gurdial Singh pointed out that despite all the irregularities that occurred, Santiago was still elected as the MP for Klang.

"Regardless of what happened, we just want a free and fair election. We want a level playing field," Santiago responded, adding, "one reason we have more votes is because people realise the votes would be rigged, so our supporters came out in high numbers."

In response to the courts striking down the cases of voters who were registered without their consent, Santiago said that "the courts are condoning fraudulent practices".

Indonesia's former deputy chairman of the Election Commission Ramlan Surbakti also questioned Santiago.

"Who benefitted from the irregularities on the electoral roll?"

Santiago replied, "the Barisan Nasional government".

"I like to think that the electoral system was highly designed and engineered to help the ruling party," the DAP lawmaker added.

The tribunal was mooted in response to the public outcry and concerns of electoral fraud and irregularities in Malaysia’s 13th general election.

It is chaired by Yash Pal Ghai, an expert in constitutional law and Head of the Constitution Advisory Support Unit of the UN Development Programme in Nepal, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cambodia on human rights and former chairman of the Kenya Constitution Review Commission and Kenya National Constitutional Conference.

Other international panel members include Ramlan Surbakti (former deputy chairman of the Indonesian Election Commission) and Kraisak Choonhavan (president of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, a former Senator and deputy leader of the Democrat Party of Thailand)

The Malaysians on the tribunal are lawyer Datuk Azzat Kamaludin (former administrative and diplomatic officer with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia), Dr Mavis Puthucheary (former associate professor from the Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya) and Rev Dr Hermen Shastri (general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia). - September 18, 2013.The Bersih People's Tribunal panel members - (from left) Dr Hermen Shastri, Azzat Kamaludin, Yash Ghai, Ramlan Surbakti and Mavis Puthucheary. The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 18, 2013.The Bersih People's Tribunal panel members - (from left) Dr Hermen Shastri, Azzat Kamaludin, Yash Ghai, Ramlan Surbakti and Mavis Puthucheary. The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 18, 2013.