Tuesday 21 June 2011

Time for talk over, Bersih chief tells EC

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — Bersih 2.0 welcomes the Election Commission’s (EC) offer to discuss electoral reforms but said it was too late for talks due to blatant abuses in polls and government disinterest for reforms.

The election watchdog cited the EC’s admission it lacked the authority to act on blatant power abuses reported during the Sarawak polls as well as Putrajaya’s seeming disregard towards reform ideas proposed as reasons it was rejecting the invitation.

“We thank the EC for the invitation but the time for talk and discussion has passed,” Bersih chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said in a statement last night.

“This is due to the recent reports of blatant abuses in the recent Sarawak election and in view of the impending general elections,” she added.

The former Malaysian Bar president noted the EC has suggested certain reform measures in postal votes, but said the ideas do not go far enough.

She told The Malaysian Insider the ideas themselves must also be tabled in Parliament to take effect.
She urged the EC to reveal in the public’s interests, the reform ideas they have suggested to the Najib administration, which have been shot down.

Ambiga also rapped the election body for what she insisted were “baseless” comments on Bersih’s independence, adding the remarks did not reflect well on the EC, which is “constitutionally required to be above partisan politics”.
“It should not matter to them where the suggestions for reform come from, whether it is from the government, the opposition, NGOs or any citizen. They should deal with all suggestions on their merits,” she stressed.
The EC yesterday offered to meet Bersih and discuss the election watchdog’s eight demands, including having free and fair elections, on condition the group calls off a planned march this July 9.

EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof also said that Bersih’s protest would only prove fruitless as their demands could only be met through amendments to the relevant laws.

“We can discuss on that condition (that the rally is called off), but if they (Bersih) want to hold the illegal street demonstration and meet us just as a rubber stamp or an excuse, it is meaningless,” he told reporters.

Umno Youth and Malay rights group Perkasa have also vowed to hold demonstrations against Bersih on the same day if the elections watchdog group carries out its promise to protest.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said he would ask Bersih to stop their plans if the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government agreed to reforms. But Bersih officials say it is not up to politicians to decide the rally’s fate.

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