Sabtu, 5 April 2014

Minister-In-Charge of the Election Commission, Shahidan Kassim, should resign over his proposal for electoral apartheid failing which Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak should ask for his resignation

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, 31st of March, 2014

 This morning, during the parliamentary question and answer session, MP for Seremban, Anthony Loke, asked the Minister in charge of the Election Commission, Shahidan Kassim, a question regarding the extent of the implementation of the one-man-one-vote principle in the upcoming delimitation exercise as per the recommendations of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform. Instead of answering this question, the Minister went on to propose his own proposal that was based on racial voting and racial representation. He went on to give the example that since Bumiputeras form 67% of the population, Bumiputeras should vote in 67% of Bumiputera candidates into parliament and since Chinese form 23% of the population, Chinese should vote in 23% of Chinese candidates into parliament and since Indians form 8% of the population, Indians should vote in 8% of Indian candidates into parliament. His entitled his proposal ‘One Vote, One Person, Based on Race” – “Satu Undi, Satu Manusia, Berdasarkan Kaum”.[1]

I call for the Minister in charge of the Election Commission to immediately resign as he has shown that he is not fit to be a Minister, especially the Minister in charge of the Election Commission which will undertake the upcoming delimitation exercise. The Minister should resign for the following three reasons.

Firstly, his proposal of voting in candidates based on the race of the voter is akin to ‘electoral apartheid’. In apartheid South Africa, black voters were put on black electoral rolls to vote in black representatives, coloured voters were put on coloured electoral rolls to vote in coloured representatives and white voters were put on the common roll to vote in white candidates. This is in effect what the Minister is advocating for in his proposal. Apartheid was widely condemned by the international community including Malaysia and it has since been abolished in South Africa. To propose that Malaysia introduce a voting system which is akin to ‘electoral apartheid’ is highly offensive and should be similarly condemned by all Malaysians. It shows that the Minister is totally ignorant about electoral systems including the fact that what he proposed was used in apartheid South Africa.  

Secondly, his lack of knowledge of the one-man-one-vote principle shows his total ignorance that this principle is a commonly accepted standard in democratic countries. Most democratic countries which practice the first-past-the-post electoral system such as the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada recognize and respect this principle and electoral laws were introduced in each of these countries to limit the disparity between the number of voters in each constituency. In addition, this one-man-one-vote principle was emphasized in one of the 22 recommendations given in the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform.[2] If the Minister is not aware that the one-man-one-vote principle is an internationally recognized democratic principle and that this was emphasized in one of the recommendations of the PSC on Electoral Reform, then he is not fit to remain as Minister.

Thirdly, the Minister shows his ignorance of the constitution in his proposal for ‘electoral apartheid’. There is nothing in the Federal Constitution that suggests that representation according to racial groups that will be voted by voters of the same race is permissible. On the other hand, the one-man-one-vote principle, with conditions, is stated in Article 2(c) of the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution which says that:

(c) the number of electors within each constituency in a State ought to be approximately equal except that, having regard to the greater difficulty of reaching electors in the country districts and the other disadvantages facing rural constituencies, a measure of weightage for area ought to be given to such constituencies
(emphasis mine)

The fact that the Minister did not refer to the constitution but instead gave his own wild and reprehensible proposal of ‘electoral apartheid’ shows that he is not fit to hold his position.
The Minister cannot claim to be speaking only in his personal capacity because he is no longer a backbencher but a Minister and therefore part of the government of the day. In addition, he also holds the portfolio of being in charge of the body which manages electoral matters in the country, namely the Election Commission.

It is not sufficient for the Minister to apologize for his statement because an apology cannot change the fact that he does not understand the one-man-one-vote democratic principle, the fact that he does not respect the recommendations of the PSC on Electoral Reform and the fact that he feels that ‘electoral apartheid’ is the best way to maintain peace in the country. His statements have made him lose whatever credibility he may have had to perform his responsibilities as a Minister in charge of the Election Commission.

If the Minister refuses to resign, then I call upon Prime Minster Najib to ask for the Minister’s resignation. If the Prime Minister fails to do so, this would make a total mockery of the 1 Malaysia slogan and the efforts of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) to promote national unity after the 13th general elections.

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