Malaysia's electoral reform 'a step in right direction: opposition | Connect Asia

Malaysia's electoral reform 'a step in right direction: opposition

Malaysia's electoral reform 'a step in right direction: opposition

Updated 3 June 2013, 15:12 AEST

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak says a new bipartisan parliamentary committee will be formed to oversee the Election Commission.


The commission currently answers to the prime minister's office and the opposition has accused it of being biased towards the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Since the May 5 election, the opposition has held several rallies rejecting the BN's victory on the grounds of widespread electoral fraud.

In an effort towards national unity, Mr Najib says he wants to institute changes to the election commission with the opposition having a say in the process.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Speaker: Lim Kit Siang, member of parliament for Gelang Patah and senior member of the opposition Democratic Action Party

LIM: Well, it seems to be a step in the right direction as it is an acknowledgment, that the biggest casualty in the last general election, is the credibility, the independence and authority of the Election Commission for its failure to conduct a clean, free and fair elections. It is unclear how far the Prime Minister's prepared to go to ensure that you will finally have a really independent, impartial and efficient Election Commission to oversee elections in the country.

COCHRANE: What's your understanding of how this Commission would work? How many people would be on it and how would they be chosen?

LIM: I have no idea whatsoever. The Prime Minister has not consulted the Pakatan Rakyat members of parliament that he should have done. If it's in the spirit of national reconciliation and to rebuild the public confidence and I'm not very sure that just having a parliamentary committee to so-call oversee the Election Commission will resolve all the problems involved, because we've seen the parliamentary committee in the efforts to clean up corruption, but corruption has become worse. So while it seems to be step in the right direction, we need to have the full details before we can make a final judgement.

COCHRANE: Is such an oversight committee necessary at all? Is there another way that the Election Commission could be even more independent of government?

LIM: I think what's important is that they should not subordinate and seen as appendage of the ruling government of the day, which has always been the case in the last five decades and that is why all the complaints and grievances about free and fair elections has not been taken seriously and the last elections, we see the results being challenged by all over the country, tens-of-thousands of people come out in public rallies, feel free to demonstrate their anger and frustration that the lack of integrity in the election process.

COCHRANE: The chairwoman, Bersih clean elections group, Ambiga Sreenevasan, has called for the, all of the members of the Election Commission to be sacked, saying that a clean slate is needed for the credibility of the Commission to be restored. Do you agree with her that there needs to be new personnel?

LIM: Yes, I think we have decided on a completely new slate, a clean slate and the first precondition is that we should have a new chairman, a new deputy chairman, because I think there are two things that [inaudible] the whole electoral process in the last elections, which has led - for the first time - to the legitimacy of the Prime Minister being doubted all over the country, which has never happened in the history of Malaysia.

COCHRANE: And Lim Kit Siang, just on another topic, we were reporting last week about the arrest or the rearrest of several politicians and activists on sedition charges for some of the comments they made at the Opposition-led rallies. What's the latest on the charges and the status of those people?

LIM: Well, I think they are awaiting their trial, awaiting being charged, and I think that this is another example of the Prime Minister unable to walk the talk. He talked about the national reconciliation but he allows a new Home Minister to go on the rampage, to crack down on the Opposition leaders and social activities. And this is not just on this aspect, we've seen the possibility of the new Home Minister cracking down on the Democratic Action Party, even declaring the DAP as the unlawful on the flimsiest and most ridiculous grounds.

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