Polls activist faces police probe for seeking secrecy of ballot

By Emily Ding
April 19, 2013
Latest Update: April 19, 2013 10:17 pm

People hold signs in support of Wong (centre) outside the Bukit Aman police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on April 19, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy MayPeople hold signs in support of Wong (centre) outside the Bukit Aman police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on April 19, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy MayKUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — The founder of Election watchdog Tindak Malaysia was questioned today by Bukit Aman police for allegedly attempting to commit activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

Bersih co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and steering committee member Andrew Khoo suspect that Wong Piang Yow is being investigated under Section 124C of the Penal Code for urging voters to ask for a random ballot paper on polling day to protect the secrecy of their vote.

“The investigation is possibly related to one of the things Tindak Malaysia has been speaking about, which is the randomisation of ballot papers,” Khoo told The Malaysian Insider outside the federal police headquarters this morning.

Later, after three hours of police questioning in the presence of his lawyers, Wong told The Malaysian Insider that the police were simply on a fishing trip to see what they can charge him with. 

“I did not say anything because if I do, I might incriminate myself,” he said.

“These investigations have no basis whatsoever,” his lawyer, New Sin Yew, told reporters.

New also said the police had told Wong before he came in for questioning that the investigation concerned the randomisation of ballots but in fact, he was questioned generally about Tindak Malaysia’s Polling Agent, Counting Agent and Barung Agent (PACABA) programme.

PACABA trains citizens to work inside voting centres on polling day and help maintain free and fair elections by checking identities and counting votes.

“Questions were asked on the contents of the training — what is Tindak Malaysia, what’s their funding,” New said, but declined to elaborate further.

“This was pursuant to a police report made on the 3rd of April 2013 in Changkat Jering, Taiping.”

However, he said he was not sure who had made the report nor did he know its contents.

Farhana Halim, another lawyer, also told reporters that the police had shown them some of the training documents Tindak Malaysia uses for its PACABA programme, which she said the Election Commission (EC) had provided to the police.

Wong expressed his disappointment that the EC and the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reform had not responded to their attempts to engage in a joint effort to raise voter awareness about the elections.

“All our attempts to talk to them have been met with a blank wall,” he said.

“So to resort to this rather than meet us and discuss issues that concern the voting rights of the rakyat I think is very arrogant.”

New said: “It’s very strange why they are investigating it under section 124C and seems to suggest that voter education is detrimental to parliamentary democracy, and that just beggars belief.”

Ambiga told The Malaysian Insider that Tindak Malaysia had ceased calling for the randomisation of ballot papers in October last year when fellow election monitor Bersih took the position of discouraging it.

“It protects the secrecy of the ballot but also leaves ballot papers loose,” she said.

However, Ambiga said: “I don’t know how they can call him in for an act that isn’t illegal at all.

“It’s everything to do with the elections. It’s all part of the intimidation of Bersih and Tindak Malaysia and civil society.”

Ambiga also said that section 124C is “closely related” to the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA).

“SOSMA defines security offences by reference to the Penal Code,” she said.

If the police decided to use SOSMA, a person could be arrested and held for 24 hours, or for an extension of up to 28 days.

New pointed out, however, that the police had not invoked SOSMA in this case to deal with Wong’s investigation.

Khoo commended Tindak Malaysia for having done good work to educate and raise the awareness of the public.

“Rather than calling him into Bukit Aman and questioning him, they should be giving him a medal for the work Tindak Malaysia has done,” he said.

“Now the ball is in the police’s court and we’ll see where it goes,” New said.