Monday 3 September 2012

Delay polls and risk punishment

The Bersih leader takes the prime minister to task for delaying the general election with no good reason, describing this as disconcerting and irresponsible.

KUALA LUMPUR: In 2009, Najib Tun Razak took over the leadership reins after his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi relinquished the post following Barisan Nasional’s biggest electoral setback to date.

Najib and his retinue of advisers had the unenviable task of reversing the political fortunes of the ruling coalition, which seemed to suffer from an incurable perception malaise.

But during his initial period in office, the prime minister appeared to be pressing the right buttons, his popularity soared and speculations of a snap polls were rife.

However, Malaysians still remained in the dark about the 13th general election, with the latest talk being that the polls would be held in November, on the 11th, which happened to be Najib’s lucky number.

Those close to Najib argue that the premier was being cautious while the grapevine had it that intelligence reports painted a bleak picture for BN.

Describing this as both “disconcerting and irresponsible”, Bersih co-chairperson S Ambiga warned Najib that the continued delay could prove to be perilous for him and BN.

She said that it would not come as a surprise if the voters, including the fence-sitters, punished him for this feet-dragging in the next polls.

“I understand it is the Westminster system and it is the prerogative of the prime minister. But a good government should be prepared to take on the election and not be afraid to set a date,” she told FMT.

“We have been in election mode since he [Najib] took over and everyone has been pumped up. He drops hints [about the polls] and that is irresponsible. You don’t toy with people’s feelings.

“People are fed up! They can’t plan things like going on holidays and so forth. Furthermore, it affects investor confidence.

“That’s why I say it is irresponsible. If this is how a government is going to play with the election date, then it would be best to have a fixed date for polling,” she added.

Ambiga said as political leaders in other parts of the world discussed the economic crisis and recession, their Malaysian counterparts were still engrossed in politicking.

“So who is running the country? This is unacceptable,” she stressed.

Is the government afraid?

Ambiga said that Bersih had also called for the election to be postponed in the past with regard to the implementation of electoral reforms.

She added that if the government claimed that the election was being delayed in order to push through the reforms, then it would be justifiable.

“But everyone has forgotten about electoral reforms. So the election is being dragged for no reason.
“It seems the government is concerned about the results [of the election]. Otherwise, they would have called for it,” she added.

Elaborating on electoral reforms, Ambiga said that Election Commission chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof cannot lead the commission as he was a former Umno member.

“He cannot claim that he would discharge his duties without bias. There are enough grounds to believe or to suspect that he would be biased and this makes him unfit for the post,” she added.

Ambiga also dismissed claims that Najib was concerned that if the polls were held before the term expired in April 2013, Pakatan Rakyat-controlled states would not dissolve their respective

“I don’t buy that excuse. He [Najib] kept the nation on election mode. Even the recent Merdeka celebration was an election campaign,” she said.

Commenting on the Merdeka celebrations, Ambiga expressed disappointment that both political blocs could not set aside their differences for one day.

The Bersih leader also pointed out that the government’s Merdeka campaign appeared to be centred around the prime minister.

“It’s a case of adoration for the PM… Where is his team? And I am also saying this with regard to Section 114A of the Evidence Act,” she said.

On Aug 14, Najib had twitted that he was instructing the Cabinet to review the controversial amendment of Section 114A following protests on the social media network.

However, Najib’s announcement was met by contradictory statements by the Cabinet defending the provision.

The new law imposed a presumption of guilt on Internet users and service providers for Internet abuses such as slander, hate speech and seditious comments posted through their network.

Vote out the incompetent

Meanwhile, Ambiga also called on voters to be selective about the candidates fielded by both BN and Pakatan.

She said that candidates who were known to be racist, incompetent and sexist must be rejected.

“A large percentage of parliamentarians don’t deserve to be there, they say inane things and are only there to heckle. These candidates should be voted out,” she added.

Ambiga also warned that BN and Pakatan were underestimating the power of women in terms of voters and candidates in the next polls.

“This comes from a historical patriarchal thought process and this must change. How dare you treat women as if they don’t matter,” she said.

She argued that when political parties comprised of Youth and Women’s wings, it gave the impression that these two were subservient or inferior and therefore this framework must be reviewed.

Weighing in on the attack against a bus used by Pakatan for its nationwide campaign, Ambiga said that political violence had reared its ugly head once again.

“If our leaders do not condemn it, then they are condoning these acts. It is hard to trust a government which does not contain political violence and in fact is seen as encouraging it.

“The credibility of the police force is also questionable as clearly, they are not acting to protect the public,” she added.

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