Commentary Politics

Old EC speaks…. for new EC to clean up

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Written by Aziz Hassan

October 16, 2018.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

THE by-election is over and with that the man most Malaysians think will be the next prime minister has taken another step forward, first returning as an MP on Monday after an absence of about three years following a legal issue for which he has been pardoned by the King.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is the president-elect of PKR, a member of the Pakatan Harapan coalition with the most number of MPs, and he is, under a plan hatched by sitting Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the anointed successor. No one in the ruling coalition is known to voice any objection to this so we can all assume that the plan remains very much in place.

Anwar won handsomely in the Port Dickson by-election on Saturday after the seat was vacated specifically to allow him to contest and that move by Datuk Danyal Rajagopal Abdullah, it must be said, didn’t look like a decision harmoniously accepted even by those known to agree with Pakatan.

There was a news item a day before the by-election which was given decent press coverage but despite the repercussion the indiscretions may have caused, the reaction to the statement if any, was rather muted. The usual suspects certainly didn’t officially issue the kind of statements we would expect from them, so the matter died a quick death. Furthermore it came a bit too late, only a day before voting.

According to the Election Reforms Committee formed in August by the Pakatan government, several matters during the campaign involving Anwar should not have happened.

Committee chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman cited free meals, campaigning by ministers who made promises and the fact that Anwar’s wife Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail introduced herself or was introduced as the deputy prime minister.

To quote Rashid: “There were two ministers who came here to campaign and making (??) promises which should not have occurred. They should only make the announcement or promise outside campaigning hours.

“Then, there were free meals provided by non-governmental organisations or corporate bodies which organised the functions on behalf of the candidates, that is not allowed and is an offence under the election regulations.”

But honestly, what difference did the way Wan Azizah was introduced make to the audience because even if she was referred to as PKR president or simply Anwar’s wife, everyone knew she was the DPM. Strangely Rashid didn’t say anything about the presence of Mahathir, who even if he had gone as Pakatan chairman, would have been escorted by the kind of security detail provided to the PM. Technically one can argue that he then must have been there as PM, not the coalition chairman. But these are trivia really.

Revelations nothing new; common even decades ago during Rashid’s time with the EC

Rashid also touched on the media coverage to compare that with what was seen under the previous administration, describing the latter as being over-the-top. To him, the “excesses” seen in PD were also common under the previous administration. Apart from his position as chairman of the ERC, Rashid must have been speaking as a politician, for he is a vice-president of Mahathir’s Pribumi Bersatu party.

Any journalist who has served long enough to have covered general elections and by-elections since 1982 can confirm without hesitation that the issues Rashid identified during the PD campaign have been around for decades, not just confined to the previous administration or the one previous to that.  

Rashid was, by the way the secretary of the Election Commission from 1979 to 1995, its deputy chairman from 1997 to 2000 and chairman from 2000 to 2008.

Regardless of what Rashid had observed, new EC chairman Azhar “Art” Harun now has enough on his plate to bring credibility to the EC as a truly impartial and transparent agency. Judging from what happened in PD, Azhar must have felt letdown his intention to make PD the model election was nowhere near to being achieved.

Lynas should feel much better now

After a few weeks of seemingly bad blood, common sense has finally prevailed with the announcement by the energy, science, technology, environment and climate change ministry of a new committee to review the operations of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.

Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the Cabinet had decided on October 10 that the committee should comprise individuals previously not known to voice their stance openly regarding the plant.

“This is to avoid any party from questioning the credibility of the committee due to its members’ stand,” she said in a statement Monday.

Didn’t the ministry think of this earlier when it appointed Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh and Bentong MP Wong Tack to the committee because both were in the forefront of protests against the plant a few years ago? Didn’t the minister think of this when she signed the letter appointing Fuziah on September 19?

The committee will now comprise Institute for Environment and Development research fellow Professor Datuk Dr. Mazlin Mokhtar; United Nations University – International Institute for Global Health visiting professor Prof. Dr. Jamal Hisham Hashim; Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Occupational Safety, Health and Environment unit director Prof. Dr. Maketab Mohamed; Universiti Putra Malaysia Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Community Health Department Assoc. Prof. Anita Abdul Rahman; Universiti Malaysia Pahang’s Earth Resources and Sustainability Centre director Assoc. Prof. Dr. Muzamir Hasan and former director of the Department of Environment’s Air and Hazardous Substances division Datin Paduka Che Asmah Ibrahim.

What a contrast to the two-person committee chaired by Fuziah, who last week did the right thing by resigning from the committee.

 

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.