Press Statement: 18th August 1999
Election Commission Must Demonstrate
Impartiality Through Its Actions

SUARAM is of the opinion that only by its actions to address the problems brought forward by political parties and NGOs,
will the Election Commission prove its impartiality. Election Commission's chairperson, Datuk Omar Mohd Hashim brush-off
yesterday does little to inspire confidence in the independence of the Commission. Some of the concerns that SUARAM want
to highlight are:

1. Access to Media
A fundamental issue that determines a fair election is whether voters have an informed choice. This is measured by access to
mass media covering both print space and allocation of broadcast time on television and radio, especially on public-owned
media. A fair election would mean that all political parties and candidates have equal access to the media. Enforcement of this
principle must be the responsibility of the Election Commission, otherwise there will be an occurrence of political censorship,
unfair government advantage and unequal access, as we have now.

2. Adequate Campaign Period
The setting of election dates must allow for adequate time for effective campaigning. Presently what we have the bare minimum
for the campaign period. Candidates from the ruling parties with its access to the media and government machinery clearly have
an unfair advantage over others.The Election Commission can easily rectify this problem by insisting on a firm date from the
Prime Minister, if its claims about its independence are real.

3. Bribery
Another major issue is development and monetary inducements. For example, during the Sarawak state elections campaign in
1996, a state government grant of RM 600 000 for street lights was givent to the Satok / Kg. Patingan area; RM 1.6 million
was announced to improve infrastructure in Lambir constituency and RM 1 million of state and federal grants was announced
for rehabilitation of a tiger prawn aquaculture project in Mukah. For any lay person, this is tantamount to bribery; but would the
Election Commission have the will to act against such practices?

4. Electoral Roll
Finally, the Commission must ensure the inclusion of those 684 675 new voters in the electoral rolls for the coming General
Elections. It is unacceptable for the Election Commission to be tardy, especially when the rights of citizens to vote could be
violated.

For an election to be considered free and fair, it takes a lot more than mere words and spoken assurances. The Election
Commission must take immediate actions to resolve problems raised by the NGOs before laying claim to its impartiality.

Released by:

Elizabeth Wong
Coordinator
SUARAM
 

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ABOLISH I.S.A.! MANSUHKAN I.S.A!
JUSTICE IN MALAYSIA! WEAR A WHITE RIBBON!
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SUARA RAKYAT MALAYSIA (SUARAM)
struggling for human rights in Malaysia

add: 383, 1ST FLOOR, JALAN 5/59, PETALING GARDENS
46000 PETALING JAYA, SELANGOR, MALAYSIA
tel: 60-3-7943525 fax: 7943526
email: suaram@geocities.com
website:http://www.suaram.org