Monday, February 17, 2014

TOWARDS A FAIRER ELECTORAL SYSTEM. 15th-16th Feb 2014. PJ Civic Center.

I spend my Saturday afternoon ( after my scheduled clinic ) and Sunday ( morn till evening ), attending this interesting forum.

I learned a lot. The forum was full of lectures by people who ( like all of us ), feel that the Malaysian electoral system is neither free nor fair, and we did not get the leaders that we want to govern us, because there were severe flaws in the system. The word " Mal-apportionment", "delimitation and delineation" were frequently heard words throughout the weekend as "gerrymandering" is one of the biggest issues denying us a fairer electoral system. We were treated to a hall full of charts like these, and maps and bar diagrams. A group of dedicated Malaysians have actually redrawn the electoral boundary to reflect a fairer electoral delineation.
                    An example of the numerous bar diagram, to explain issues of electoral concerns.
                                An example of the proposed electoral boundaries re-delineation
They are obviously very upset with the present system. They are also prompted to work hard and fast as the next re-delineation exercise or re-delimitation exercise, is due. One is done every 10 years  ( mandated for by the Federal Constitution ). The last one was in 2003, so the next one is due 2014.
For such an important issue, fairer electoral system, as we face GE 14, the attendance was pathetic. About 200 per day, moving in and out, so that at anyone time, there were ( gestimate ) about 100 in the auditorium.
There was a notable absence of politicians to hear what was happening. Perhaps they were busy in Kajang, was the joke.
The speakers included, Dr Lisa Handley from USA, Dr Bridget Walsh from Singapore Uni, Dr James Chin from Monash Malaysia, Mr Ng Chak Ngoon, KY Wong  and Mr PY Wong of Tindak Malaysia, Mr Wong Chin Huat and Mr Thomas Fann from Bersih 2.0 ( one of the NGOs ),  Mr Syah Redzuan from Beres / Bar Council, Dato Saifuddin Abdullah of UMNO, now CEO of Global Movement of Moderates ( via recorded video ).
I will not regurgitate what I heard, but just share with you a few observations.

1. It was a good forum and I learn a lot, also made some friends. It is important for all of us to be aware. It is so much harder for the thief to cheat and steal when the owner is aware, awake and watching.
2. There are differences in approaches amongst the various bodies who are fighting for a fairer electoral system, for example the approaches of Bersih 2.0 ( who were not part of the organisation of this forum ), but who were included to share their views. The most glaring differences which some deemed major ( which I deem minor ), was whether we should increase the number of seats for Sabah and sarawak, or whether we should maintain status quo. It was obvious that Bersih had not done the actual maps to define what they think is a good boundary for electoral constituency. Perhaps they feel that that was a lesser issue.
3. Bersih 2.0, through Engage, did propose a DART program to engage the public to file petitions when the delineation exercise is presented by the Election Commission. I must say a difficult and labour intensive exercise. Any 100 persons in any constituency can object to the delineation, file a petition to challenge and the EC must look into any grouses. So we can exercise our citizen's rights. DART program is to empower us to do that. So this forum is to make us aware of what citizens can do. Lets see how it works out.
4. I learn very importantly, that since 1963, we have been treating Sabah and sarawak, who were both sovereign nations before they join the Federation of Malaysia, as just another state of Malaysia, like Selangor and Johore. That is really wrong, as pointed out by Dr James Chin and Sabahans and Sarawakians resent that. They want to be treated like another sovereign nation like Peninsula Malaya. I suppose their local politicians must also take some blame for this wrong. They were consulted in all the stages along the way.
5. There was a great divide between what the East Malaysian elites want and what the East Malaysian public want. In fact there was a comment that Sabah should do a "Singapore move"? One speaker feel that the majority of Sabahans are unhappy with the present situation. There are now overwhelmingly more migrants ( legal and illegal ) in Sabah now than native Sabahans. Thanks to Project M.
6. There is a BERES program to draw up the details of a constitutional amendment to bring about a fairer electoral system. Headed by lawyers , but consisting of mainly laypersons, ( some over seas ). They have done the legal bit.
7. Electoral boundaries drawn up by the EC for GE 13 was so ridiculous that it cut across the bed of a house, so that husband and wife were voting in different constituencies.
8. Of course the indelible ink fiasco came up. Best summarised as the "edible ink".
9. Some of the delineation of boundaries were done to suit powerful war lords in UMNO.
10. The voter register is dirty like hell, and needs a severe cleanup. It cannot be relied upon, and so we cannot undertake automatic voter registration.
11. Postal votes are a source of severe mis-use and can easily be manipulated.
These are just summary points that I remember. I am sure that I left out some important points too.

I must also record a word of thanks to Tindak Malaysia and Bar Council for organising this Public Forum.
Oh, I learn so much. I wish that you were all there.
From here Tidak Malaysia and Bar Council pledged that they will take the roadshow to all over the country and educate the populace.

Personally, I saw that the biggest flaw in this whole exercise, is the political will to amend the constitution and bring about the necessary changes for a fairer electoral system. I have grown so sceptical that I must confess I do not see the UMNO warlords doing this. If they do not cheat more, is already a bonus.
I must say that the people must understand and perhaps take to the streets again to tell our leaders, that we want changes to the Federal Constitution to allow for a fairer Electoral System. BERES has solid proposals for this.
I think a BERSIH 4.0 is necessary.


Michael said...

No doubt given your hectic schedule you rush through this piece. So understandable if piece title "Towards a fairer electoral system" may not be descriptive of existing situation. It implies current system is already acceptable but can be improved. But you know it's not. The correct heading should simply be "Towards a fair electoral system".

Existing system is flawed and probably intentionally so (to put it mildly) to make it that much harder to unseat the reigning power.

One obvious flaw is unfair/disproportionate delineation of constituencies, the subject of your piece. This is so obvious on so many levels. Within the same state Selangor, Kapar for example has over 140,000 voters but Sabak Bernam less than 40,000. There again Selangor, as another example among many, with about 2 million voters is represented by only 22 MPs while Sarawak has 31 MPs representing just over 1 million voters. (Malaysia Act 1963 has been invoked as reason but this was no longer applicable since Singapore left in 1965). Kuala Lumpur has 11 MPs each representing at least 55,000 voters but Putrajaya also has one MP representing only 15,000 voters (and we know why). Further examples abound.
But fair delineation of constituencies is just one albeit a major flaw of current system.

The other major flaw, not just of the system, but indeed of the democracy we claim to practice is the lack of (none actually) mainstream media coverage allowed to or allocated to the opposition.
Disappointingly in the run up to last general election in 2013 the opposition big guns (particularly from PAS) didn't stress on this flagrant Gerrymandering strongly enough and often enough. Neither was there much stress on corruption issues, again particularly from PAS. Anwar did make a few passing references on corruption but did not make it his war cry. DAP's Kit Siang and Guan Eng were almost alone among the opposition biggies who constantly hit on corruption, though still less on Gerrymandering. The rise of perceived and actual corruption at all levels together with crime are the two urban citizens' main concerns. Hopefully this is a lesson for preparation towards next GE.

As for me, I care less for which party or parties win as long as they have a real (not promised) agenda to stop corruption, crime, racism, religious bigotry so that my children and grandchildren can look forward to a developed first world Malaysia.

hmatter said...

Hi Michael, you are exactly right and I concur with your thoughts. The title was chosen by the organisers and I was just using it as the title for their forum.
I beg to differ with you on one important point. Unless either of us are prepared to start a new party and offer ourselves for election, there are at present two established political parties, for better or for worse. The BN and PR.
I know for sure that BN will not do what you wish for your children and grandchildren. That only leaves PR as a reasonable alternative for change.They are not ideal, but the other is a proven devil. So we are all working hard for change as this resent regime is the cause of all our ills and continuing with them can only make things worse.
Please do come and joint us and bring about change and should we succeed, stay on the see that change is effected, and allow the devil to transform to the new reality.
What else can we do?
Sit back and wait for more of the same? join us Michael, join us to change.
Please come and