While serviceman Major Zaidi Ahmad was sacked today after telling the press the indelible ink used by the Election Commission rubbed off, no action was taken on the EC over the ink, electoral watchdog group Bersih said.
The military court today dismissed the Air Force pilot of 26 years from service after he was found guilty of making a press statement without approval from the Armed Forces Council.
“Despite his valiant efforts, no action has been taken on the EC till this very day, and no one from the EC has ever had to account for this sham.
“Nothing has ever come from the hundreds of police report lodged against the EC over this except for this particular one, which resulted in punishment for the whistleblower instead of the wrongdoer,” it said in a statement.
It said that the faulty ink was “the biggest scandal among the irregularities that marred the 13th general election”.
“For that, he has paid a heavy price, while Malaysia, too, has lost a fine soldier today.”
The fact that the military court did not wait for the judicial review challenging the court’s authority on the matter is also unfair, it said.
Zaidi does not want to appeal the decision, but Bersih said the judicial review could bring some measure of justice for the pilot.
As Anwar Ibrahim’s fate hangs in the balance, Malaysia’s democratic chances are slipping further away, writes James Giggacher.
Malaysia’s long-time opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s fate still hangs in the balance; his political future as tenuous as the sodomy charges brought against him.
Since October 27 he has been fighting a five-year jail sentence for allegedly sodomising an aide handed down by the nation’s Appeals Court in March – itself an overturning of an earlier acquittal by the High Court.
It’s the second time Anwar’s faced sodomy charges, the first being in 1998 during the failed ‘reformasi’ movement. If the Federal Court upholds this latest conviction, Anwar will also lose his status as an MP and not be allowed to engage in politics for years.
Anwar’s rejected the idea of living in exile to stay in Malaysia and face the charges. It’s his final appeal. A bold, courageous move; maybe a stupid one born from his unfailing naivety about the prospects for political freedom in his homeland.
It’s not the ‘crime’ he is charged with, or the evidence given in this final courtroom charade (underpants and KY jelly have featured), that is truly sordid. Rather, it is what the whole sorry saga says about the declining prospects for democracy in Malaysia.
Many inside and outside the country see the charges as nothing more than politically motivated and trumped up – the latest shot in a long running war against the most powerful threat to ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional.
“The ‘sodomy’ charges against Anwar Ibrahim are a blatant attempt by the Malaysian authorities to silence and undermine a critical voice,” said Amnesty International in a statement the day the court case started. “If Anwar Ibrahim is jailed, Amnesty International will consider him a prisoner of conscience.”
Anwar and his Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) coalition took incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak and Barisan Nasional to the line in last year’s general elections, winning 51 per cent of the popular vote, but only 40 per cent of seats in parliament.
But while GE13 was billed as the democratic dawn many had longed for so long, Anwar once again found himself on the sidelines. With no one to take up the mantle, the 67-year-old still finds himself leader of Malaysia’s “rainbow” opposition.
The ‘gerrymandering’ of seats saw Barisan Nasional win the election by 133 seats to 89. The result, their narrowest parliamentary win and worst result ever, spooked those who have ruled Malaysia uninterrupted since independence in 1957 using a volatile mix of ethnic-based politics and emergency powers, all managed by the velvet glove of economic growth.
This was compounded by the election results of five years prior; Barisan’s eroding base is a trend which had begun in 2008, when it failed to win the ‘moral victory’ of a two-thirds majority in parliament. Yet, a general upswing in support since then, let alone winning the popular vote in 2013, wasn’t enough to see the opposition remove Barisan’s grip on power. It’s largely because the political deck is stacked in their favour.
While the elections were “partially” free, according to key regional think tanks, they were far from fair.
COMMENT Today marks the one year anniversary of the historic 13th general election. This election was pivotal in the country’s history as the incumbent BN coalition held onto power, with the opposition calls for ‘change’ unfulfilled.
Scholars have highlighted the fundamental shifts in the power of Umno, the imbalance of the opposition parties, the rise in influence and political awakenings of East Malaysia and the electoral irregularities, among many profound structural changes.
In other ordinary ways, Malaysian politics has also changed, with greater cynicism, insecurities and anger more prominent in public life. This is across the political divide. News reports feature troubling reports of increased racial tensions, political polarisation and continued shortcomings in governance.
This article highlights some of the ongoing dynamics in contemporary Malaysian political life, which are both worrying and offer promise ahead.
There is no question the last year has been a difficult one for Malaysia. Globally, the country came under the full glare of the international spotlight in what arguably will be the story of the year – the loss of MH370. Now everyone in the world knows where Kuala Lumpur is, and the seas and oceans around it.
The persistence of this issue in international headlines for over two months is a reminder of the lack of closure for the families of love ones on board the missing plane and the country as a whole.
Malaysia has been blessed historically by a comparative lack of crises but MH370 shows the need for better preparation and the need to learn. What is of concern in the failure to properly release even the preliminary investigation report of the tragedy is an apparent unwillingness to acknowledge mistakes and strengthen the country’s responses in future.
The context of post-GE13 contributes to this childish stubbornness to embrace improvements. Political wrangling and insecurities are dominating the terrain, with those in power obsessed in staying there and those in the opposition myopically focused on getting there.
Even one year later, the country is still electioneering, with the focus on power rather than the people. This is perhaps one of the most serious losses of GE13 – a distancing of the interests of citizens and political leaders.
Even basic needs are being ignored, as evident by the water rationing. This issue is being used in a seemingly never-ending political game of blaming and one-upmanship. When will the federal and government leaders sit down and figure out a proper solution to the country’s water shortages? The sense one gets is: when the dams freeze over.
The impression is statesmanship is sorely lacking. It is not only MH370 that is missing. Some of this is a product of Prime Minister Najib Razak doing a disappearing act when a controversial issue emerges. When he reappears – usually well after an issue has evoked tensions and frustrations – his interventions are too little too late.
The Sessions Court today granted Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad a discharge, not amounting to an acquittal, after he was charged for the second time with breaching the Peaceful Assembly Act.
The judge took the position that the lower court was bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal, which had earlier released Nik Nazmi, who is also Selangor Legislative Assembly deputy speaker.
Earlier today, Nik Nazmi was re-charged under Section 9 (1) of the PAA at the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court for his involvement in the Black 505 rally held at the Kelana Jaya stadium on May 8 last year.
On April 25, the Court of Appeal ruled that the charge against Nik Nazmi under Section 9(1) of the PAA for failure to give notice to the police before the rally be struck out.
The three-man Court of Appeal bench led by judge Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof had said that while the police could impose restriction on peaceful assembly, they could not penalise organisers and participants for non-compliance of the PAA.
The Court of Appeal also ruled that Section 9 (5) of the PAA – which provides for punishment for failure to give a 10-day notice to the authorities before a protest – as unconstitutional.
Today, when the charge was read out to Nik Nazmi, his counsel N. Surendran urged the court not to take a plea, as he wanted to submit that his client could not be tried again after the Court of Appeal had acquitted him, as provided for under Article 7 (2) of the Federal Constitution.
“Section 7 (2) is very clear. A person who has been convicted or acquitted shall not be tried again for the same offence except if the decision has been quashed by a superior court.
“You have no alternative but to discharge him immediately because you cannot try a person under a law that does not exist, as in the case of Section 9(5) of the PAA,” Surendran told the court.
He also said that to bring the charge against Nik Nazmi after he had been acquitted by the Cout of Appeal was tantamount to contempt of court.
He said the act by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to bring about the charge would effectively weaken the administration of justice and public confidence in the courts.
“The courts must not tolerate this kind of conduct by prosecution agencies,” Surendran said.
A legal team assembled to represent a Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) pilot in a military court charged with providing statements to the media regarding the indelible ink is mulling challenging the charges in a civil court.
PAS lawyer Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, who is leading the team, said he was considering filing a judicial review in the High Court as the charges framed against Major Zaidi Ahmad (pic) had violated his constitutional right.
“He is entitled to lodge a police report when a wrong has been done and framing charges against him runs contrary to Zaidi’s freedom of speech and expression,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Hanipa, who is also Sepang MP, said Zaidi was also being harassed.
“He should not be penalised. The Armed Forces Council has the option to withdraw the charges and bring the matter to an end.”
He said even the Election Commission had conceded that there was a fiasco over the use of the indelible ink in last year’s general election.
Hanipa said Zaidi’s case did not come under the purview of the attorney general, who was also a public prosecutor.
“Usually we will write to the AG to drop the charges or file an application in court to strike out the charges. Since Zaidi is court martialled, we can only resort to a judicial review,” he said.
Hanipa said he had spoken to the council authorities to drop the charges but there had not been any indication of a positive outcome.
“We are running out of time as the military court will begin the three-day proceeding next Tuesday,” he said.
Election 2013 broke every rule in the book, Bersih panel finds
SUBANG JAYA, MARCH 25 — Every single principle governing the running of a free and fair election was breached during last year’s May 5 federal polls, Bersih’s People’s Tribunal concluded in its findings released today.
Panel member former United Nations Special Representative and constitutional law expert Yash Pal Ghai said Election 2013 had fallen short of every aspect of democracy and violated the standard of free and fair elections.
He agreed that the election had been free to some extent because those who were registered voters were not blocked from casting their ballots but said this freedom was more in a “narrow sense” of the word.
During Election 2013, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) retained federal power with 133 seats to Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) 89 seats despite losing the popular vote contest to the federal opposition, garnering just 49 per cent of the total votes cast.
“We have found ourselves compelled to reach a conclusion that there were multiple failings in the way GE13 was conducted and that virtually every tenet of free election was violated at some place and at some time,” said Yash Pal, who headed the tribunal.
“There were so many breaches of law, disregard of procedures that we have to conclude that elections were not free and fair,” he said, reading out the verdict and recommendation of the five-person panel.
The recommendations, which included proposed amendments to the constitutions on electoral reforms, were concluded after the panel considered sworn statements from 75 witnesses.
Of the 75, 49 appeared personally during public hearings from September 18 to 21 last year.
The panel also proposed reduce the voting eligibility age from 21 to 18 years, and called for equal voting access for Malaysians living abroad.
Yash Pal said the various complaints from individuals who never registered as voters and those who were transferred out of their voting districts, indicate a “deliberate act of fraud”.
“Registering one or two people in the wrong constituency might be carelessness; registering those who have not sought registration is suspicious,” said Yash Pal, adding that it is hard to exonerate the Election Commission (EC) of collusion as identification cards are required upon registration.
Noting the difficulty in ensuring an electoral roll is completely void of discrepancies, another panel member, lawyer Datuk Azzat Kamaluddin, said political parties should establish a specific unit to check the voter registry.
This, he pointed out, is to prevent from a complainant running into legal constraints when it comes to challenging discrepancies in the roll. The Election Act 1958 provides no legal avenue to those who want to challenge a gazetted electoral roll.
On the first-past-the-post electoral system practiced by Malaysia, Yash Pal labelled it questionable as it relies heavily on the fairness of delineated electoral boundaries, which has been repeatedly questioned by federal opposition lawmakers and activists here.
“Individual voters will not be equally represented if they are in constituencies with significantly different number of voters and the actual outcome of overall results can severely be affected by moving boundaries.
“A witness gave evidence that, on average, a vote for BN was worth 1.6 times a vote for PR, because PR-leaning constituencies are on average larger,” he said, adding that it does not reflect “the principle of one person, one vote, one value”.
In order to reduce the glaring ratio, the panel proposed amendments to laws defining the criteria on the size of urban and rural constituencies, crucial to the delimitation process.
The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), a study by University of Sydney and Harvard University, recently showed Malaysia’s electoral demarcations as the worst of 66 countries in terms of fairness and integrity of its electoral boundaries.
Why go after RMAF pilot and let big sharks get away, asks DAP
DAP leader Lim Kit Siang (pic) today questioned Putrajaya’s move to charge air force pilot Major Zaidi Ahmad for complaining about GE13’s indelible ink when it let “big sharks of corruption, who steal hundreds of millions of ringgit worth of properties and wealth, act with impunity as they enjoyed immunity”.
He said the government should be ashamed for behaving in “a mean and petty manner” against the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) pilot who had lodged a police report against the indelible ink used in the May 5 general election.
“Why is Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration so perverse that they prefer to charge Zaidi using a 40-year-old military law?” the Gelang Patah MP said in a statement today.
“Zaidi did what every Malaysian is expected to do, he spoke the truth about the indelible ink which was used in the last general election as it was quickly washable and removable.”
“The use of the Armed Forces Act 1972 on Zaidi shows that military leaders have no standing and took their cue from political leaders,” Lim said.
He also urged Najib and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to intervene and drop all charges against Zaidi, who faces two years in jail if found guilty.
“If Zaidi is sent to prison, both Najib and Hishammuddin should be ashamed and embarrassed in the eyes of the world. But they appear to be numb and insensitive,” he said.
Lim said when Zaidi lodged a police report over the indelible ink fiasco, he was acting in his capacity as a Malaysian voter and citizen.
“He was not lodging a police report in his capacity as a RMAF pilot,” Lim said.
“Which has the higher calling, loyalty to the Federal Constitution or to the bureaucratic rules and regulations of the military services?”
He added that if Putrajaya was not prepared to drop all charges against Zaidi, then he would raise the issue when Parliament reconvenes on March 10.
Zaidi lodged a police report after the indelible ink on his finger washed off only hours after voting in the 13th general election in May last year.