Sunday, 13 November 2011

Ambiga ticks off MCA over right to vote - by Aidila Razak (MsianKini)

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) today took a strong stance against MCA's proposal to disallow voting for Malaysians residing overseas.

Speaking to Malaysiakini on the sidelines of the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform, its chairperson Ambiga Sreenevesan said that denying the constitutional right to vote based on logistics is “appalling”.

s ambiga bersih at psc“It’s appalling and completely baseless, including their damage control after that,” she said, referring to MCA’s proposal to the committee on the first day of the public hearing yesterday.

“We cannot use logistics to deprive citizens of the constitutional right to vote... Overseas voters, too, are ready to assist in any way to make it work.”

MCA had yesterday told the panel that Malaysians residing overseas should not be allowed to vote as they are “out of touch” with the real situation in the country, and may rely on “doubtful, biased and wrong” information.

Its president Dr Chua Soi Lek later clarified that it is also because allowing these people to vote will pose a logistical challenge.

Count ballots at embassies
"Don't underestimate Malaysians overseas," said Ambiga.

She added that Bersih 2.0's stand is for ballots to be counted at the embassy with the results sent immediately after polls have ended.

In his submission today, Bersih 2.0 steering committee member Wong Chin Huat said that a way to address the logistical issue is to get voters overseas to conduct advanced voting.

He said they will then have to register with the Malaysian mission abroad two weeks ahead so the mission will be able to know which constituencies they will be voting for and how many ballot boxes to prepare.

Wong also suggested that 13 ballot boxes for states and 16 for parliament be provided, instead of for all constituencies and for the ballot papers be sorted when they are counted.

"It is a question of political will," Ambiga said.

Excuses excuses

Meanwhile, at the public hearing, Association for the Promotion of Human Rights’ representative Ramon Navaratnam also disagreed with MCA on the issue.

"Some say Malaysians abroad don't stay in touch, but some people say they know more than we do...they are aware and to disqualify them for being unaware is unjust," he said.

He added that such views by a party that is part of the ruling government gives rise to suspicion that the government is "willy nilly using this (reason) to maintain status quo".

Ramon also disagreed with committee member Fong Chang Onn (BN-Alor Gajah) who suggested that Malaysians should adopt practices in other countries like Australia, that disqualify its citizens who have left the country for more than five years from voting.

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