An open letter to the Electoral Reform Committee — Christopher Ling

JULY 6 — On June 27,  2019, I represented my NGO at the engagement programme organised by the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) 

The ERC was set up by the government under the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) last August to look into electoral reform. It is chaired by Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, a former chairman of the Election Commission. In reviewing all aspects of the elections, the ERC’s tasks include obtaining feedback and suggestions from various parties, particularly stakeholders such as political parties, NGOs and voters, among others. Currently conducting roadshows to gauge public opinion, ERC has two years from August 2018 to complete their task and prepare recommendations for the government.

The attendees of this particular programme held in JB were of diverse social backgrounds ranging from politicians, political parties, activists, NGOs, SPR, police to academicians and even university students.

While I appreciate the effort made by the ERC to organise such a programme, it seems that many of the issues were not discussed in depth, probably due to the diverse backgrounds of the attendees and lack of expertise or skills of some facilitators to lead discussion. The ERC must ensure effective use of resources so as not to fall short of achieving the desired results.

Most of all, there is an urgent need to reform the electoral system, bearing in mind that many reforms had already been proposed in the past. For example, the 2012 Parliamentary Report of the Special Select Committee on Electoral Reforms. 

Using another two good years to produce another report with no specific timeframe for implementation would point to a sad lack of political will on the part of the government.

Out of the 15 components for electoral reform identified by the ERC, there are a few which can be changed or implemented without committees and constitutional changes. For example, Voter Education. Plans and programmes to educate especially young Malaysians can be immediately worked on. Civic education opportunities can be created especially in school. These opportunities range from social studies classes to simulations of democratic processes and discussion of current issues. The purpose is to create a well-informed society and to promote electoral participation. With the proposal to lower the voting age, voter education has become even more urgent and crucial.

As raised during the session, I request the ERC:

  1. To differentiate those components for electoral reform which can be changed/implemented without committees and constitutional changes. Propose these changes /implementations to the government without procrastination;
  2. To recommend a roadmap for the rest of the components to the government, putting in milestones.

The people have waited long enough.

* Christopher Ling is chairman of the Johor People’s Action Group (JPAG).

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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