Suhakam: Questions about EC’s impartiality ‘legitimate’

An Election Commission officer, Haziyatul Amirah, shows an indelible ink bottle during a demonstration at the Election Commission offices in Putrajaya on May 2, 2013. — AFP pic
An Election Commission officer, Haziyatul Amirah, shows an indelible ink bottle during a demonstration at the Election Commission offices in Putrajaya on May 2, 2013. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said today there was validity to public doubts about the ability of Malaysia’s poll regulators to act fairly and without bias.

In remarks emphasising the importance of a properly functioning democracy, it said the EC’s demonstrable neutrality and impartiality in this area were vital to preserving public confidence in the country’s polling process.

“Suhakam accepts the legitimacy of these questions and understands the declining public confidence in the EC as the redelineation of electoral boundaries was widely seen to be unfair, biased and disproportionate,” it said in a statement.

“Suhakam found that there was insufficient information on the effect of the redelineation and a lack of meaningful public consultation on the exercise, in breach of the right to freedom of information.”

The rights commission predicted that the 14th general election would be a watershed moment in Malaysian history, and urged all parties to avoid polarising the country in the run-up to the polls.

The EC remains accused of favouring the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in its redelineation exercise, which altered the country’s voting boundaries just days before the general election was called.

Critics have questioned why the EC felt it necessary to complete the redrawing in time for the general election, saying the haste only fuelled suspicion about its motives.

They also expressed concern about the effects of the redelineation on voters, saying that conducting the exercise in such close proximity to the polls elevated the risk that some voters may not learn in time that they have moved constituencies.

Similar suggestions of bias also befell the EC after it set polling for the middle of the week.

Today, the rights commission also criticised the media for failing to provide equal and unbiased coverage to all political parties, citing coverage of the various political manifestos as evidence of such partiality.

The commission went on to urge all government agencies to facilitate environments conducive to free and open participation in the polls.

“Suhakam reiterates that genuine democratic elections expressing the will of the people are a fundamental human right,” it concluded.

The 14th general election will take place on May 9.

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