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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Openness of the Election Commission, Malaysia

On 01 June Proham released a statement concerning constituency delineation and the number of seats in parliament.
Our statement was our response to a roundtable discussion (RTD) on 15 May at which DART, the Delineation Action and Research Team (which comes under BERSIH 2.0), presented the work they are doing around the nation to educate and mobilize voters to contribute to the delineation of constituencies.
The key subjects we touched on at that RTD were malapportionment, gerrymandering and the number of seats in Parliament. We reported that DART has formed teams of volunteers around the nation and trained them. We reported that DART has developed plans to publicly display, in the coming months, their proposals for the boundaries of constituencies. This is DART’s approach to actively engage the public in reviewing the boundaries of constituencies.
We expressed concern that while DART and others have actively engaged the public, the Election Commission (EC) has had little visibility. We encouraged the EC to actively engage the public and to publish its own plans. We also offered to work with all parties and especially to cooperate closely with DART and the EC.

Meeting with the EC on 7 July 2014
We followed up by approaching the EC for a meeting. We were delighted when the EC offered us an opportunity to meet. We met yesterday (07 July 2014) in the EC’s offices in Putra Jaya.
Our delegation included Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam (leader), Datuk A Vaithilingam and Mr M Ramanathan from Proham; and Dr Wong Chin Huat and Mr Thomas Fann from DART.
We were very satisfied by the useful and cordial meeting.

Not only did Tan Sri Abdul Aziz, the Chairman of the EC, and two commissioners (Datuk Christopher Wan Soo Kee  and Tuan Haji Abdul Aziz bin Khalidin) attend the meeting; the EC’s delegation included several senior officers who are actively involved in the delineation process. We were received warmly, treated respectfully and listened to eagerly.

We discussed some results of the 2003 delineation as expressed in the current constituency boundaries; we noted evidences of malappropriation and gerrymandering. It was heartening to receive firm assurances from Chairman Tan Sri Aziz and his team that one of the main goals of the current delineation process is to eliminate such issues.

We discussed who should be responsible for determining the numbers of elected representatives; the EC emphasized that their role is to recommend, and that Parliament is the ultimate decision maker.
DART’s plans
We discussed some aspects of how DART is going about the task, and obtained the EC’s comments and advice about these aspects. We discussed concerns about the electoral roll and heard about the EC’s strenuous efforts to clean the electoral roll.

Key take-aways
We came away with the sense that:
1. The EC is very approachable, and is sincere in soliciting data and feedback which could help it identify and overcome weaknesses. We intend to follow up by submitting more feedback and data to the EC in the spirit of cooperation.
2. We can continue to dialogue with the EC on an ongoing basis.
3. The EC is endeavouring to improve the delineation and electoral process.
4. The EC appreciates those who seek to work with it.

We recognize the EC is working within constraints: the public’s desire for collaboration, the importance of showing no favouritism, and the urgings of some politicians.
We are hopeful that yesterday’s meeting is our first step in active engagement with the EC.
Issued on behalf of Proham by
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam (Proham member) &
Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Proham Chairman)
08 July 2014

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