A lesson in the Bill that was withdrawn — Lim Mun Fah
MAY 12 — The Cabinet decided to withdraw the controversial Election Offences Amendment Bill 2012. DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang expressed the Pakatan Rakyat’s support for the government’s decision.
I can still remember that the Bill was tabled at 2am on April 20 and hastily passed when the Dewan Rakyat froze the time at 11.59pm on April 19. A total of 22 Bills were passed at that time.
Such a hasty parliamentary operation is undoubtedly contrary to the spirit of democracy. Lawmaking is the most sacred and solemn task of Parliament. Lawmakers must ensure every item and detail of a Bill have been given sufficient time and space to review, debate, question, clarify, add on and amend to make it close to perfect before they vote.
Facts have proven that our Parliament has neglected its duty. Those bleary-eyed lawmakers who had raised their hands in confusion that day had failed to live up to their responsibility as people’s representatives. They found that the Election Offences Amendment Bill was actually full of absurd flaws only after they woke up from sleep.
After the Bill was hastily passed, Bersih rally co-chairperson Datuk S. Ambiga said angrily that four amendments in the Bill would have a far-reaching impact and to a very large extent, they have rejected the candidate’s right to monitor voter’s identities, or it would cause ghost voters and multiple voting, which was tantamount to advocating dirty politics. She also predicted that the next general election would be the dirtiest election in history.
The contentious points of the Bill included the removal of the provision requiring printed campaign material to carry the name and address of the printer and publisher. Ambiga said that it would open the door for a dirty election. She said that she was not nitpicking as such a “relaxation” move would indeed in effect encourage those with malicious intentions to print publications with defamatory as well as racial and gender discrimination words.
Another controversial point was, expanding the exclusion zone for non-authorised persons from 50m to 100m at polling stations and not allowing election agents or candidates to be present at election booths. Those opposing the amendments believed that it would make it more difficult to monitor the vote delivery and calculation process. The suspicion is reasonable.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz said that the government fully accepted the proposal and tabled it in Parliament because it did not want to interfere with the EC’s independent status. The government merely played the role of a postman in the whole process. Such an argument is hardly acceptable. It is because the so-called independent status should not go beyond principles like fairness, justification, reasonableness, freedom and democracy. Moreover, the authority did not consult experts in the related field for professional advice before it was tabled. They did not reveal it to the public to collect views and opinions either. It had skipped the important process of “listening” in the process of democracy implementation.
The Bill was hastily passed and hastily withdrawn. After witnessing a farce, we can only hope that Parliament has learned a lesson from it and not repeat the mistake, which will bring us another disappointment and the international community another joke! — mysinchew.com
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.