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Saturday, 31 May 2014

Proham calls on the Elections Commission to be transparent and collaborative

Proham calls upon the Elections Commission (EC) to explain the process used to define the boundaries of electoral constituencies.
Proham notes with concern the overwhelming evidence of gerrymandering and malapportionment during GE13.
On 15 May 2014, Proham organized a Roundtable Discussion (RTD) to discuss the delineation of electoral constituencies. The RTD was held at the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF). The RTD was moderated by Mr Rama Ramanthan and Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Proham Chairman) gave the welcome address.
At the RTD, Dr Wong Chin Huat and Mr Thomas Fann of Bersih 2.0’s Delineation Action and Research Team (DART) presented strong evidence of both gerrymandering and malappropriation displayed in the present sizes and shapes of electoral constituencies in West and East Malaysia.
The DART team displayed a high level of understanding of the “Provisions Relating to Delimitation of Constituencies” contained in the Thirteenth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.
The DART team showed how they have taken the constitutional provisions, Malaysian historical practices and insights gleaned from the EC to develop a “Constitutional Compliance Checklist” which can be used as a tool to evaluate whether the boundaries of any constituency show signs of malapportionment or gerrymandering.
Malapportionment means giving some constituencies a greater voice in legislation and policy-making than is warranted by their numbers. Malapportionment is evidenced by the relative sizes of constituencies, e.g. e.g. 144,159 voters in Kapar have one MP, while 37,318 voters in Sabak Bernam also have one MP. That’s one of many examples of malapportionment.
Gerrymandering means taking account of how voters are likely to vote when drawing the boundary of each constituency. Gerrymandering results from a policy of creating politically like-minded groups of voters rather than the constitutionally prescribed policy of recognizing communities who live together due to natural-geographical boundaries. Gerrymandering results in odd-shaped constituencies such as the present constituencies of Tebrau (Johor), Seputeh (KL) and Alor Setar.
On Gerrymandering, Datuk Vaithilingam (Proham) observed that the shape of Subang Jaya constituency is now like a snake, going up to Sungei Buloh and that since 2008, citizens have become more alert to constituency delineation.
The RTD learned that the EC has begun work to review the boundaries of each constituency, but has not released any timeline indicating when they expect to publish any proposed changes and solicit public comment as required by the Federal Constitution. The EC is publicly funded to ensure fair representation, yet appears to have taken no initiatives to engage a willing public in its activities.
Conversely Bersih 2.0, which receives no public funds, has, through DART, developed a process utilizing information gleaned from the EC, Google Maps and spreadsheets to work on re-delineation of constituencies. DART has developed and deployed a non-partisan training program to enable ordinary Malaysians to develop and propose constituencies with natural boundaries. Within the next month DART will be ready to display, in several states, maps of some of the proposed re-delineated constituencies.
Those who have created and deployed DART are members of the Wiki-generation, persons who believe in voluntarism for the common good, especially through using computer technology collaboratively.
Proham is gladdened by the interest the public have shown in DART. This indicates a keen sense of responsible citizenship amongst Malaysians across ages, ethnicities and other associations. This is an excellent indicator of inclusiveness and tolerance.
Proham is disappointed that there has been no formal meeting between the EC and Bersih 2.0/DART to work collaboratively. This is of course partly to be expected because of the delible ink and other fiascos for which no one at the EC has taken responsibility.
Yet, Proham is eager for the common good and the will of moderates to triumph.
Proham therefore urges the EC to share broadly the processes and the constraints it will use to conduct the re-delineation process. Proham urges the EC to begin a series of consultations with the public.
Proham believes the adoption of a pro-active stance by the EC will smoothen the acceptance of whatever decisions the EC will recommend in the coming months. Early and frequent Public Consultations will strengthen Public Confidence and National Unity.
Increasing the number of MP’s. The RTD was surprised to learn that previously Parliament did not use criteria for cost (e.g. salary, perks, staffing, office) and contribution (e.g. number of hours participating in debates in the House or attending committee meetings) of Members of Parliament to determine the number of constituencies prior to delineating their boundaries.
It appears Parliament, with the complicity of the EC, put the cart before the horse, for it is effective representation which should come first. The EC should explain why such a decision was made previously, and say whether a similar decision will be made in the next re-delineation exercise.
Therefore Proham also calls upon the EC to explain the logic behind that sequence of events, and whether the EC plans to do the same in the future.
Proham reiterates its commitment to participate in the process of ensuring fair and effective representation and willingness to mediate between all parties.
Issued on behalf of Proham by:-
Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Proham Chairman) and Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam (Proham Exco Member) June 1, 2014

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