A six-person team from Aliran submitted its concerns on the electoral system to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform yesterday in Penang.
Aliran president Dr Francis Loh began by stating that Aliran, as a member of the Bersih steering committee, fully supports Bersih 2.0’s eight demands.
He spoke about the importance of a level playing field to ensure fairness. In this regard, he stressed that the independence of the Election Commission has to be restored. He added that constituency development funds must also be made available to all winning candidates.
Aliran secretary Dr Mustafa K Anuar stressed the importance of free, fair and equal access to the media. The PSC was especially interested to hear specific recommendations on how this could be implemented in practice.
Aliran treasurer Anil Netto said that the Election Commission should ensure that candidates and their parties kept within the permissible limits of campaign expenditure. He called for the candidates’ expenditure to be independently audited – and this audit and monitoring process should begin once parliament is dissolved so that the Commission can determine if what the candidate later records in her statement of expenditure is a accurate reflection of what was actually incurred.
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Past president P Ramakrishnan called for a caretaker government to administer the country once parliament is dissolved until a new government is formed. He also recommended fixed dates for elections, the automatic registration of voters, compulsory voting and by-elections to be held if winning candidates later defect to another party.
Aliran exco member Angeline Loh called for a moratorium on the registration of foreign nationals until the general election is held to allay concerns that they were alleged being fast-tracked into becoming eligible voters.
Also in the Aliran delegation was Exco member Dr Soon Chuan Yean.
Meanwhile, Susan Loone reported for Malaysiakini on some of the representations made at the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform that convened in Penang on 14-15 December 2011.
Penang, 15 December 2011 – The spotlight was on the conduct of the media at the parliamentary select committee meeting in Penang today, as several elected representatives highlighted “bias and unfairness” towards opposition parties, especially during election campaigns.
Sim Tze Tzin said he discovered that a government linked radio station – Mutiara FM – has not provided space for any Penang government official since Pakatan Rakyat took over in 2008.
“However, all BN leaders leaders were interviewed, including representatives of NGOs who stage anti-government demonstrations in Penang,” he told the PSC, chaired by Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maximus Ongkili.
Sim, who is PKR Bayan Baru division chief, later told Malaysiakini that he was shocked when he discovered that the radio station had interviewed the organisers of anti-state government protests to “give them publicity”.
PKR submits 16 recommendations
The PSC is holding a two -day meeting in Penang, and so far about 15 representatives have presented their views to a panel which includes four MPs – P Kamalanathan (Hulu Selangor), Mohamed Azmin Ali (Gombak), Loke Siew Fook (Rasah) and Wee Choo Keong (Wangsa Maju).
Representing PKR, Sim presented 16 recommendation in a 54-page report which included suggestions that the media provide for three debating sessions among prime ministerial candidates from the BN and Pakatan over prime time news.
He proposed that the date for election be fixed as practised by other developed countries as well as Malaysia’s neighbours – Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
He also suggested that “dirty political tactics” be eradicated from election campaigns and that the Election Commission and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commision take stern action against bloggers who flout this rule by exposing sex-related videos to disparage politicians on their blogs.
But he was countered by Wee, who asked him if his suggestion also applied to news portals which are often used as “mouthpieces” of certain quarters, but Sim insisted that he was referring to media funded by taxpayers money.
“Is this fair reporting? What about those who are funded by subscription? Is it okay (for them to be biased)?” asked Wee, but did not name the news portals he was referring to.
Opposition painted in negative light
Meanwhile, Aliran representative Mustafa Kamal Anuar, who has been monitoring media coverage before, during and after elections since 1999, concluded that the media has been very unfair to the opposition.
Mustafa said that if the media included the opposition in its coverage, it often paints them in a “negative light” although he does not discount the fact that they have been provided space in the news.
He also took issue with the media for not allowing space for the opposition to reply to allegations against them carried by newspapers.
The opposition is also denied space for political advertisement, which are mostly provided to BN to publish their manifestos, even though they have the money to pay for the space, he noted.
“One has also to look at how the opposition parties are treated by the media, and this includes distortion of facts, which is why the latter feels maligned by the media,” said the communications lecturer at University Sains Malaysia.