Coalition reiterates call for Abdul Rashid to resign
KUALA LUMPUR (March 28, 2007): Election Commission (EC) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman was criticised today for a recent statement in which he challenged opposition parties to bring him to court if they thought the commission was unfair or not transparent.
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) also questioned Abdul Rashid for saying the EC’s role was not to make law.
Repeating earlier calls for Abdul Rashid to resign, coalition spokesman Sivarasa Rasiah described his statement as "misleading" as he had ignored recent developments where the courts had addressed the role of the EC and the process and conduct of elections.
Sivarasa said an amendment was made to the Election Offences Act 1954 in June 2002 whereby the electoral roll, once certified or rectified, "shall be deemed to be final and binding and not be questioned or appealed against or reviewed, quashed or set aside by any court".
He said Abdul Rashid was also aware of the judicial review initiated by Parti Keadilan Rakyat against the commission in April 2004 in respect of some alleged irregularities that occurred during the 11th general election.
Through the attorney-general, who appeared for the EC in court, the EC objected to Keadilan’s application on the grounds that it was a backdoor challenge to the election and said any challenge regarding the conduct of an election had to be by way of an election petition.
"The amendment has effectively removed all legal avenues to challenge the credibility of the electoral roll," Sivarasa told a press conference.
"When he was, in part, responsible for immunising the electoral roll from any challenge in an election petition, why is Abdul Rashid asking his critics to take him to court?"
Sivarasa said while laws had to be made and amended by Parliament, the proposals for any electoral law amendment came from the EC.
However, he said, Section 16 of the Elections Act 1958 authorised the EC to make regulations and under Section 17, these regulations needed only to be laid before parliament, which may choose to annul them.
"In practice, the EC has made and amended three regulations on the conduct of election, registration of electors, and postal voting.
"All three regulations began with the line: ‘In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 16 of the Elections Act 1958, the EC, with approval of the King, makes the following regulations’."
Despite having said the election laws needed to be reviewed, he said, Abdul Rashid had consistently maintained that only the government had the power to do it, not the EC, and that the opposition parties were barking up the wrong tree.
Asked what had the coalition learnt in the Batu Talam by-election two months ago, Sivarasa said the opposition parties’ (PAS and Keadilan’s) boycott of the by-election showed their concern over the electoral process.
"The commission should deal with the response and provide the remedy and we have suggested three remedies to the EC – use indelible ink to mark voters who had cast their votes, stop postal voting, and clean up the electoral roll," he said.