Side Views

When 18 is approximately equal to one — Ravinder Singh

JAN 29 — Why is it wrong for people to discuss a matter that has become public knowledge? Do proceedings of the RCI on “Project IC” come under the OSA (Official Secrets Act)? The royal commission itself has not put a gag on the public.

UPKO deputy secretary-general Lucas Umbol is reported to have justified his party’s call that people should refrain from commenting on the facts coming up in the inquiry, saying that “negative comments” could discourage the witnesses who are yet to give their evidence from coming forward.

Perhaps he is unaware that the RCI has the power to subpoena witnesses and if any subpoenaed witness does not show up, he would be committing an offence. Witnesses can volunteer to give evidence, or they can be compelled to give evidence. So what is Lucas’ worry?

The implications of the evidence being given by witnesses are very grave, unless the reports reaching the public are not true. If the reports are not true, then action should be taken against those misreporting.

If people who were not qualified to vote according to the law of the land had been given blue ICs and registered as voters so that out of gratitude they would vote for the government that had given them the blue ICs, then “Project IC” was an act of treason.

It is mischievous of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has admitted giving citizenship to the “pendatang” (to use his own term) in Sabah, to equate his “Project IC” to the giving of citizenship to the “pendatang” before Malaya was given independence by the British.

Giving of citizenship before independence was openly discussed and agreed to by all the parties involved. In fact it was a pre-condition to the granting of independence. Those given citizenship at that time had been in the country for decades, if not for generations. That citizenship did not come on a golden platter — they had been earned. These were people who had helped make Malaya what it was at that time. The citizenship was not given with any strings attached — that those who got the citizenship would vote for a particular party.

What has come to public knowledge so far about “Project IC” is totally different. It actually was a surreptitious project to register voters who could be depended upon with certainty to vote in a particular way. It was a “I help you, you help me” project and it worked.

This shows that the Election Commission is not independent. It cannot feign ignorance and claim that “as far as documents showed, those (Project IC citizens) who applied to register were eligible voters according to the law of the land”.  

Again, if the information available to the public up to the present is true, how many of the names of the “Project IC” citizens can remain in the electoral roll and how many cannot?

Even in a society or a trade union, if “members” not qualified to vote had cast their votes, the election is considered null and void.

Here we are talking of national elections to form the government of the country. If unqualified “citizens” (albeit holding blue ICs) had been allowed to vote, and their vote did make a difference in the outcome of the elections, then are those elections valid and the government so elected legitimate?

This is an extremely serious matter. We also know that demarcation of electoral boundaries by the Election Commission has not been done in accordance with para (c) of the 13th Schedule of the Constitution.

The 1957 constitution guaranteed that there should not be more than 15 per cent difference in the number of voters in the different constituencies. In 1962 this was changed to 50 per cent and in 1973 it was removed altogether, thus leaving it to the EC to interpret para (c) of the 13th Schedule which still exists and says that the number of voters between constituencies should be approximately equal. Thus, the legislature gave a free hand to the EC to decide what “approximately equal” means, and in the EC’s mathematics 18 is approximately equal to one, and in compliance with the said para (c). 

When in the conscience of the Election Commission “approximately equal” can mean 18:1, the independence of the EC becomes very highly questionable. It does not require anyone to have a Phd in English or mathematics to know that 18:1 is not approximately equal.

The Padang Renggas parliamentary seat has slightly over 24,000 voters while the Kapar seat has a little over 112,000. How is this justified as being “approximately equal”? Other examples are Sabak Bernam, Sungai Besar and Tanjung Karang that have between 31,000 to 36,000 voters and Gombak, Serdang and PJ Utara that have between 76,000 to 99,000 voters respectively.

Now, please tell us why it is wrong to discuss such matters?

Would the 13th GE be a fair election if unqualified persons have been registered as voters? Would it be a fair election if the constitutional requirement that the number of voters between constituencies should be approximately equal is interpreted to mean 18 votes in certain constituencies are approximately equal to one vote in other constituencies?

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.



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