Reported in The Star, the Election Commission wants the power to sue critics who make baseless allegations against it.
Its chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said: “There are those who take to the streets (telling lies) and getting the publicity, and we (the Election Commission) suffer. “If we have the power to sue, we can take action against those who spread lies without evidence,” he told newsmen.
I am astounded by his statement. What is the use of EC if it can't even defend its own image and credibility? Does the EC needs to be given special power to sue? I do not think so. The chairman, on the behalf of EC, can file a defamation case against any critic. I am not surprised if what Abdul Rashid really wanted is power to put someone in jail without trial.
“These people are traitors (for hurting the image of the country). Vote-rigging is not possible here because the electoral boxes are there in front of the eyes of the agents (representing the candidates and parties) at all times,” he said.
Despite his experience of running elections over the past many years, the EC chairman's understanding of the electoral process seems to be quite limited. Fraud and vote rigging can be conducted through many ways e.g. phantom voters, vote buying, unfair access to media, sheer financial strength etc.
This is why the calls to clean up the electoral roll must be acted upon. Even Dr Mahathir has warned of possible vote buying in the upcoming elections.
For example in Germany, the publicly funded broadcasting stations are obligated to provide equal access to all politicians regardless of their affiliation. The access is important so that voters are well informed of their choice and selection of candidates.
Abdul Rashid should ask for power to prosecute and punish those who played dirty in the upcoming elections and not power to sue critics. The inability of the EC and its chairman to accept open criticisms does not augur well for the openness and transparency of the institution.