A think tank suggests that the PSC be turned into a permanent institution.
PETALING JAYA: The Election Commission (EC) has said it is ready to face the 13th general election, but one of the questions observers are asking is: What about the 32 recommendations of the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform?
“What are the updates on the PSC suggestions? Exactly who is monitoring the implementation of these reforms?” asked K Shan, acting chairman of the National Institute for Democracy and Electoral Integrity (NIEI).
Last February, the government gazetted the use of indelible ink to ensure that no one votes more than once. In late April, the EC announced that it had managed to reduce the number of dubious voters on its roll to 40,803 from the January figure of 42,000.
However, there are many other issues to address before anyone can say that the electoral system has undergone meaningful reform.
Even the clean-up of the electoral has not gone far enough to satisfy critics. There are, for instance, still many cases of multiple voters registered under a single address. The PSC has suggested that Mimos Berhad, a government agency, be assigned to monitor the problem and continue with the clean-up. However, there has been no significant update on this.
PSC, in the report it released in early April, suggested that the EC display the names of dubious voters within 45 days for a quick clean-up of the roll. It has now been seven weeks since that report and the deadline is drawing close. We have yet to hear anything from the EC with regard to this suggestion.
Shan suggested that the PSC be re-appointed to oversee the progress of reforms. While acknowledging that the PSC was not the final voice of authority on electoral matters, he said its familiarity with the issues involved should not be wasted.
He even suggested that the PSC be turned into a permanent body.
“Of course, we are concerned over the short-term reforms, but we are suggesting that the PSC be made permanent to look into long-term reforms as well,” he said.
“Since the nine members of the panel are familiar with the issue, why don’t they just continue to oversee the implementation of the reforms? At least that will be better than the EC itself overseeing the reforms.”
Lack of political will
PSC member Anthony Loke said this was in fact one of the suggestions made in the April report. However, he added, the government lacked the political will to act on the recommendations.
“We suggested for a permanent committee to be established,” he said, “but there is a lack of political will to implement these suggestions. There is no mechanism to push for these reforms and there is no pressure whatsoever for the EC to act.”
Indeed, now that the PSC’s term of service has ended, Parliament is deprived of a means to request progress reports from the EC.
PSC chairman Maximus Ongkili said it was entirely up to the government to take up or reject any of the suggestions in the report.
“The committee that was suggested was to monitor the implementation of PSC’s 32 recommendations, to provide checks and balances,” he said.
Wong Chin Huat of the Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee, however, does not agree with the idea of a permanent PSC.
“Technically, the PSC falls under Parliament,” he said. “So if Parliament is dissolved, the committee also dissolves.
“We have enough institutions at the moment. What we need now is not more institutions but independent parties inside the existing institutions. The people who make up these institutions must have independent powers.”
The way Wong sees it, it is the general public that has the biggest role to play.
The public must demand reforms, he said. “They have to exert pressure on the EC to be more accountable.”
He disclosed that Bersih had embarked on a programme to encourage people to send faxes to express their discontent with the EC and to demand the resignation of its bosses.
“If only 500 people are doing it, that would not be enough,” he said. “If 500,000 people inundate the EC with such faxes, then of course the EC will feel pressured.
“Therefore, the public has to consistently exert such pressure, and not just rely on an institution.”