There is nary a doubt in the average Malaysian’s mind that our country’s electoral system is neither fair nor representative of the rakyat’s wishes or desires. Through gerrymandering and other means, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition managed to win 60% of the Parliamentary seats, even though they only won 47.38% of the popular vote.
The opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition, on the other hand, only won 40% of the Parliamentary seats despite winning 50.87% of the popular vote. In the other words, every vote for the ruling BN coalition is worth 61% more than a vote for the opposition PR coalition.
Fair? Definitely not.
The Electoral Roll Challenge
Although Malaysian voters are familiar with the concept of “phantom voters” or “ghost voters“, many of us probably don’t realise that electoral fraud can also be committed in the opposite direction – by removing legitimate voters using the electoral roll challenge.
The electoral roll challenge is a tool that works both ways. It allows anyone, whether it’s a member of a political party or just Joe Public, to challenge the legitimacy of a voter. The onus, however, is on the voter to prove his legitimacy. If he/she fails to do that, then he/she is struck off the electoral roll.
See Zhi Peng’s Recent Experience
Law graduate, See Zhi Peng, appears to be one of several victims of the electoral roll challenge. He recently received a registered letter from the Election Commission, informing him that his registration for the electoral roll had been challenged.
The reason? The Election Commission claimed that “Pemilih tidak dapat dikenal pasti / tidak tinggal di alamat yang didaftarkan“, which means his identity could not be confirmed or that he was not staying at the address he registered.
The odd thing was – he had been living at the registered address for the past 10 years, and the registered letter was even sent to that address! Even more beguiling was the fact that he was asked to present himself at a particular Election Commission office on a particular time and date, less than a week after he received the letter, failing which his name would kept off the electoral roll.
What Happened At The EC Office
Fortunately, Zhi Peng was able to take time off on that Thursday to go to the EC office to prove his legitimacy. There, he met two men waiting to prove their voting legitimacy as well, including elderly man who had been voting for over 40 years!
When he went in to face the judge and his “accuser”, he had no idea who his accuser was – he was a complete stranger! His accuser didn’t even have a shred of evidence to back his claims. He could only tell the judge that he passed by Zhi Peng’s house. Needless to say, his baseless claim was denied for lack of evidence.
However, Zhi Peng peeked at the list of claims and found out that his accuser had brought up the same or similar claims against 5-6 voters, of which only two turned up to prove their legitimacy. Sadly, those who didn’t turn up would be automatically struck from the electoral roll, even if their accuser doesn’t have any legitimate evidence to prove his claim.
This is highly suspicious behaviour. Who in the right mind would accuse 5-6 people of being phantom voters without evidence? It certainly smells like electoral fraud, a perverse attempt to remove legitimate voters from the electoral roll.
In Zhi Peng’s Own Words
Here is Zhi Peng’s own testimonial :
EVERYONE SHOULD BE AWARE OF THIS!
If any of your friends or families received a letter from Pejabat Pilihan Raya of the state that they register their voting rights in, notifying them that there is a ‘bantahan’ against their name in the electoral register, please make the effort to go for the ‘siasatan awam’ at the location and time stated in the letter. This is because also stated in the letter is that in the event that the person to whom the challenge is directed against fails to turn up for the siasatan awam, the voter’s name may be removed from the electoral register and hence, not be able to vote come the next general election. Attached along with the letter would be a Borang D – ‘Notis kepada orang yang terhadapnya bantahan dibuat’ and in this form, a reason for the bantahan would be stated along with their full name, I/C number and address.
I received my letter via registered post on the 14th of August 2015 and I was required to show up at Kompleks PKNS Shah Alam on the 20th of August which falls on a Thursday. My registration application to have my name entered into the electoral register was challenged and the reason given was “Pemilih tidak dapat dikenal pasti/tidak tinggal di alamat yang didaftarkan”. From the get go, a red flag was raised because I have been living in this address for the past 10 years. The fact that I received the letter alone was enough to disprove this. And what does “pemilih tidak dapat dikenal pasti” even mean? They had my I/C number, full name and full address stated in the Borang D as well, if still tidak dapat dikenal pasti then how else?
Apparently anyone can challenge to remove your name from the electoral registration. Another man was also at the Pejabat Pilihan Raya because his “alamat tidak lengkap”. An old man, probably in his 60s sitting next to me was chatting with me and he said that he has been voting for 40 odd years and this is the first time he is receiving this letter and reason stated being “pemilih tidak dapat dikesan”. I thought only those who were applying to have their name added into the electoral register like me would be challenged, but even those who are already voting were also being challenged.
So, I went into the bilik bicara to face the judge and my ‘pembantah’. The pembantah was just a random person and I was confused as to why he would put me through all this trouble. The judge asked whether he has scouted my house before and his answer was “saya pernah lalu la, (Bandar) Botanic besar tamannya”. That was all he said and it was creepy enough that he has my address and details but now it’s even weirder that he has scouted my house before. In the end, the judge decided that he didn’t bring enough evidence and arguments to deny my name from being registered into electoral register. It all felt so scripted. The pembantah didn’t say much and it was as if he was prepared to just waste his time and effort and lose this claim because he has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to back his claims. The fact that the pembantah was so malprepared raised the question of the motif of his challenge. I was expecting at least some solid points from him and I even brought a copy of my parents’ I/C and a copy of my birth certificate to show that I am, in fact, staying there.
Note what I said earlier that if someone receives this letter and doesn’t turn up, he will be automatically dropped from the electoral register. Also note that it is a working day and I was lucky because I have just graduated and haven’t gotten a job yet and I didn’t have any other prior engagements. So turning up wouldn’t be an issue for me. However, there were other people who were complaining that they were forced to take half day’s leave in order to be there and I’m sure that there are a number that couldn’t turn up.
I took a peek at the list and out of about 5-6 persons my Pembantah brought a claim against, only 2 of us turned up so far. My guess is that some people would not be able to make it to this hearing either due to transport issues (some of the people who turned up were old so it’s probably inconvenient for them to be there, but they turned up. Good job to them!) or maybe because they are unable to get leave from work and would be automatically dropped from the electoral register by default.
Bottom line is, let everyone know about this and tell them to turn up if they do receive this letter. Don’t let them deprive you off your constitutional right. And for those who didn’t receive this letter, take some time off your FB time to check your voting status here – http://daftarj.spr.gov.my/DAFTARJ/DaftarjBM.aspx
The Moral Of The Story
It is bad enough that the electoral system is skewed towards the ruling coalition through gerrymandering. The rights of the legitimate voter are further eroded by not only phantom voters, and also the wrongful removal of legitimate voters through the electoral roll challenge.
Sadly, there is nothing we can, or should, do about the electoral roll challenge. It is a necessary tool to help weed out fake voters. The only thing we can do to protect our constitutional right and patriotic duty to vote is to ensure that we prove our voting legitimacy if we ever receive such a summon from the Election Commission.
We thank Zhi Peng for sharing his experience, and we hope that word of this spreads so that no legitimate voter is deprived of his or her right to vote.
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