Electoral reform panel gets mixed reactions


THAT’S ME: Najib with wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor (left) looking at a picture of himself presented to him as as a souvenir during a ‘berbuka puasa’ (breaking of fast) gathering with the media hosted by Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) at Wisma Bernama. — Bernama photo

KUALA LUMPUR: While some quarters have hailed the setting up of the parliamentary select committee on electoral reform announced Monday by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, others are awaiting for more
details on the panel.

The MCA, Gerakan, MIC and Transparency International Malaysia are among the organisations which have welcomed the proposed panel. Opposition political party PAS wants to know about the composition of the panel and its terms of reference while a DAP MP has demanded government sincerity in the matter.

Najib had made the announcement when addressing a ‘buka puasa’ (breaking-of-the-fast) gathering with the media hosted by Malaysian National News Agency, Bernama, at Wisma Bernama here Monday night.

He had said that the committee would comprise representatives from the government and opposition parties and would discuss all electoral reform issues well before the next general election to eliminate any suspicion of manipulation.

MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai told Bernama the government’s intention to set up the panel reflected its sincerity in wanting to see transparency in the country’s elections. Not only the opposition but also the government wanted clean and fair elections, he said, adding that the government would also criticise the Election Commission (EC) if there were irregularities in the election process.

Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said in a statement that the bipartisan committee was the most appropriate and transparent means of addressing the various issues and concerns raised. He said the committee should ask the EC to make presentations and explanations and also hold public hearings in various regions to allow the people to present their views and suggestions.

MIC president Datuk G Palanivel described Najib’s announcement as a bold move which he said would further strengthen democracy and improve the perception of voters.

Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) president Datuk Paul Low said the announcement of the panel was a positive move on the part of the government, and added that a review and reform of Malaysia’s electoral system was long overdue.

He said the committee should be given the mandate and power to recommend all necessary action which would ensure that elections in Malaysia were conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner.

“TI-M believes it is critical that the select committee restores public confidence in the electoral process. It will also defuse the politicisation of electoral reforms and ensure in-depth and open discussions and resolution of major complaints received on the management of elections in Malaysia,” he said in a statement.

The Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) congratulated Najib for his public declaration of the government’s commitment to electoral reform, saying that the positive move would address many of the critical concerns and issues raised by the Bersih 2.0 movement recently.

It said that a parliamentary process was the best way forward as the select committee would comprise members of parliament from both the government and opposition sides.

“Furthermore, a small committee of MPs will be able to study this issue of electoral reforms in an in-depth way,” Proham said, adding that it also hoped that adequate time would be provided for the resolution of election reform concerns before the next general election.

PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub said opposition MPs had yet to be informed on the setting up of the committee and would want to look at the terms of reference before agreeing to sit on the panel.

“We have no idea what form the committee will take. We would want to have a look at the terms of reference and know who would head the panel,” he told reporters at the PAS headquarters

Salahuddin, who is the MP for Kubang Kerian, said the opposition did not see the setting up of the committee as the answer to its demand for a special sitting of parliament to discuss the alleged awarding of citizenship to permanent residents and their registration as voters.

“On Aug 8, we wrote officially to the prime minister asking for the special sitting of parliament, and the announcement of the parliamentary select committee was made yesterday upon the expiry of the deadline,” he said.

He said the opposition would continue to press the government and the prime minister for a public hearing to enable people who had concrete proof of electoral malpractices to raise them with the government.

“If the demand is not met, we will not hesitate to call on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to set up a royal commission to resolve the issue,” he said.

He also said that the opposition would send another official letter to the prime minister seeking a public hearing and the setting up of a royal commission.

Kepong MP Dr Tan Seng Giaw of the DAP said the country now really needed electoral reforms, and added that the government must show sincerity in its proposal to set up the parliamentary select committee.

“There must be meaningful terms of reference and a workable, yet truly bipartisan democratic procedure. Not only must we follow the parliamentary standing orders but also include healthy discussions with a practical time frame,” he told Bernama.

Meanwhile, EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof welcomed the setting up of the committee and said the EC would extend its cooperation to the panel. — Bernama