MALAYSIA NOW – January 2016

Sarawak State Election

Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem announced the proposed dates for the Sarawak state election. He said that he had met the Election Commission (EC) and set the proposed dates of 18th April 2016 as nomination day and 30th April 2016 for polling. The following day, May 1st is a public holiday.

Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan
Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem Taken from Bernama

The EC estimated that the election will cost RM181 million, with a large portion going towards transportation and rental costs. This figure is more than double the cost incurred to run the 2011 state election for which the EC spent RM78 million. As there has been an increase of 11 state seats (to 82 seats), the EC has to rent ’38 helicopters to send ballot boxes, papers and officers and to bring them out of remote areas, which is only accessible via air. This alone will cost RM33.4 million’.

Ong Kian Ming, a Democratic Action Party member of Parliament, requested that the EC should allow Sarawakians living and working outside the state to their cast votes as postalvoters in the state election. As with to the 13th general election, their votes can be considered as postal votes and returned to their respective constituencies to be counted on polling day itself. This is not a new recommendation, as the parliamentary select committee on electoral reform listed this as one of their recommendations in its final report.

In its 21st January 2016 media statement, Bersih, along with the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (MERAP) were shocked by the results of further analyses of the re-delineation exercise in Sarawak. MERAP found that:

  1. Based on the voting trends observed in the 13th General Election, Barisan Nasional (BN) has a strong chance of winning 9 out of the 11 new state assembly seats created by the re-delineation exercise.
  2. Where BN-friendly seats have been created, the average size of the constituency would shrink between 25% and 47%.
  3. There has been a worsening imbalance in the number of voters in each state assembly seat, making a mockery of the ‘one person, one vote, one value’ principle.

The delineation exercise runs counter to the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution by ignoring Section 2(c), which requires that all constituencies in the same state should be approximately equal in voter size. This delineation exercise appeared to have given undue regard and weight to political considerations in drawing constituency boundaries, which is not a specified condition under Section 2. The exercise also failed to provide adequate information to affected voters as required under Section 4(a).


New EC Chairman appointed

Effective from 24th January 2016, former EC deputy chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim has replaced Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof as EC chairman, when the latter’s term of office expired upon his reaching 66 years of age. This is in accordance with Clause 3 Article 114 of the Federal Constitution. Mohd Hashim, who holds a Master’s degree in political science from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and began his career in the civil service as an administrative officer with the Kuala Lumpur City Hall in 1980.

Election Commission deputy chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah. Picture taken from The Star.
Election Commission deputy chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah.
Picture taken from The Star.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah stated that Mohd Hashim’s main task should be to win back public confidence before the Sarawak state election this year, due to the organisation’s poor reputation. She pointed out that 38% of Sarawak’s electoral roll had no full address. Maria suggested that Mohd Hashim should invite all political parties and NGOs to develop a roadmap to electoral reform, which includes the changes to ‘laws, procedures and finally putting the action to practice for a fair and free election.

Mohd Hashim later on announced in his first ever press conference that he will engage with citizens groups, including Bersih 2.0. He urged critics to allow the EC to “do our jobs” and insisted that the commission has maintained a clean track record despite multiple allegations.


Indonesian activist scheduled to speak at a Bersih 2.0 forum deported

Mugiyanto Sipin, an activist during Indonesia’s 1997 reformasi and organizer of student protests which led to the downfall of Suharto’s regime was to speak at Bersih 2.0’s Yellow Mania Festival on the evening of 7th January 2016. When he arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 that afternoon, in which he was detained by Malaysian Immigration officials for allegedly trying to “interfere in local politics” and was sent home immediately. However, the forum went on as planned, with its guest speaker participating throughSkype instead.

The deputy director of Amnesty International, Josef Roy Benedict, lambasted Mugiyanto’s detention and deportation as a violation of “the rights to freedom of expression, and to receive and impart information – rights guaranteed under international laws and standards.”

A poster featuring Indonesian activist Mugiyanto. Bersih 2.0 says tonight's Yellow Mania forum will continue despite the deportation of Mugiyanto who had been scheduled to speak at the event
A poster featuring Indonesian activist Mugiyanto.


KL Mayor said opposition will win if local elections held

Kuala Lumpur (KL) mayor Datuk Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz told the radio station BFM’s The Breakfast Grill host Sharaad Kuttan that if there were to be local elections, the post of KL mayor will likely be held by a member of the opposition and this would cause a disarray between the federal and the state governments. He stated that as the capital city, KL needs to be governed directly by the federal government to ease the implementation of policies and projects in terms of development, economy and economic activities. “In order to administer KL, you have to work with the minister. The minister makes the policy, the mayor executes. If the mayor cannot execute what the minister has asked him to do, then there will be haywire in terms of administration,” Amin said.


AG declares no charges against PM

Alter studying the investigations carried out by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Attorney-General (A-G) Mohamed Apandi Ali declared that he was satisfiedthat there are no grounds for action against prime minister Najib Razak. The A-G has instructed that the investigations into the purported RM2.6 billion political donations and RM42 million from SRC International transferred into Najib’s personal bank accounts to be closed. SRC is a former subsidiary of the prime minister’s debt-laden brainchild 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Former Bersih 2.0 chairman and prominent lawyer Ambiga Sreenivasan said that Apandi must disclose more information about the investigations as it involves a public figure and government money.

“Going by the A-G’s statement, I don’t understand how this issue of returning the money arose, how donations with a presumption of corruption, how that presumption is displaced,” Ambiga said. “People don’t give that much money for nothing. That is not clear to me. That’s against human nature. How do you reasonably explain that a person who donated RM2.6 billion wanted nothing in return? That means there must be overwhelming evidence to show that they gave it for nothing,”

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