May 15, 2013 -- Aliran -- What trust we have in the Election Commission! Jeyakumar Devaraj reports his observations of the GE13 campaign process from Sungai Siput.
There were many complaints of electoral irregularity if not fraud during the course of the PRU 13 campaign and during polling day. As this seems to be a hotly debated issue, I would like to share my experience as the candidate in Sg Siput.
1. There were many people who came claiming that their names were not on the SPR list of voters, though they had voted in previous elections. We have recorded their names down and intend to take this up with the SPR.
2. There were also others whose names were registered in the voting list of other constituencies though they had voted in Sungai Siput before and had not applied for a change in constituency. This too we intend to follow up.
3. It was painfully obvious that the BN campaign was far exceeding the RM200,000 expenditure limit for a parliamentary seat. Their flags, banners and posters themselves came to much more than that. House-owners who allowed the BN to tie banners on the fronts or sides of their houses were paid RM300!
4. There were numerous programmes during the campaign period when the BN gave out hampers, gift vouchers, conducted lucky draws with rice cookers and toasters as presents.
5. There were several programmes where government agencies launched projects e.g. the ground-breaking for a new Tamil primary school and the handing out of Tekun loans amounting to RM2.5m to about 100 applicants. The BN candidates were the guests of honour in this sort of event while the opposition candidates were not invited.
On polling day, our supporters found four tour buses parked in Sungai Siput. When my team and I arrived, there were no passengers in sight – but the drivers said that they had brought Malaysians working in Singapore back to Perak to vote. We made a police report and the police detained the four buses and took statements from the drivers. We were given a list of 35 names by one of the bus drivers – young Malays and Chinese mainly. No foreigners! When we contacted the handphone numbers recorded in this list, the people named confirmed that they had come on that bus from Johor to Perak on 3 May.
We have not yet been able to identify the passengers from the other three buses, but intend to try and do so by contacting the companies. But we do not have any proof that these buses brought in foreign voters. In any case, our people in the pondok panas did not notice foreign-looking people trying to attend the voting centres.
7. The “indelible” ink that washed off!
Many people complained about this. I called the returning officer and he said that perhaps the bottle of ink was not shaken properly! We advised all those complaining to make police reports.
8. Ballot boxes by helicopter.
There are video postings of a young SPR officer guarding two yellow ballot “bags” in a field. That field happens to be in Sungai Buloh, Sungai Siput. They contained the 237 votes from Orang Asli voters in Kuala Mu. As was agreed, polling at Kuala Mu stopped at 2.00pm, and the votes were counted there in the presence of Pas counting agents. The Borang 14 was given to these counting agents, and the ballot papers were then sealed in these two bags and flown by helicopter to Sungai Siput.
All these arrangements were made known to us on the afternoon of nomination day. So this is not evidence of any hanky panky here! But a crowd of about 500 Sungai Siput residents had surrounded the ballot bags, and it was only after I arrived and assured them that it was okay that they allowed the SPR to take these bags to the main counting centre.
9. Wilful delay in announcing the results
This is one of the complaints. We got the copies of the Borang 14 from most of our polling centres by 8.00pm. By 8.30pm we knew we had won by about 2800 votes. However it took the SPR another five hours to announce the result. Painful, but there wasn’t anything sinister in this.
It was the process of tabulation – the SPR required each of the 104 ‘Ketua Tempat Mengundi’ to submit his Borang 14 to the Returning Officer, the ADO. This would be typed in and projected on to a screen to enable the candidates to cross-check against their own Borang 14. After a few minutes, an assistant to the Returning Officer would announce over the mike that vote results from such and such school had been accepted, and it would be added to the cumulative total. Openness and transparency can be time-consuming!!
10. Entrance of eight SPR bags at 11.30pm
Many people in the hall were alarmed when this happened. I was already about 5000 votes ahead when this happened, and many supporters were anxious that extra votes were being brought in to cheat us of our victory! Again, nothing sinister.
The votes from three interior Orang Asli villages were not counted at site, though the process of voting was observed by our Paca. These votes were brought out by four-wheel drives to the District Office where they were counted under observation of my and Pas’ counting agents. The ‘Undi Awal’ were also counted then. Apparently it was all done one by one which is why it took several hours to complete. These arrangements were made known to all parties contesting on Nomination Day itself.
PRU 13 was not a fair one. The mainstream media and government agencies supported the BN shamelessly. Very openly! And the BN spent far more than the legally permitted limit for each constituency. There are serious lingering doubts about the authenticity of the voters’ lists. However, in Sg Siput we were not able to find conclusive evidence of significant cheating during the polling process.
The sheer volume of complaints we received indicates how little trust the Malaysian public have in the SPR! And it is good to see that the Malaysian public are prepared to monitor the polling process itself to ensure it is not hijacked by any party. There is a much higher level of citizen activism to preserve the sanctity of the polling process compared to before. This is good for a democracy.
Must say our thanks to the Bersih movement! And syabas to the general public! If we want a better system we have to put some effort into creating it!
About Jeyakumar Devaraj
Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, a long-time Aliran member and contributor, is the Member of Parliament for Sungai Siput. A respiratory physician who was awarded a gold medal for community service, he entered politics and scored a major upset in the 2008 general election when he defeated an incumbent heavyweight minister.