‘Public hearing’ on reforms a mockery

Parliamentary Selection Committee on Electoral Reforms hearing gets off to a bad start in Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: Either by design or sheer incompetence, the ‘public hearing’ on electoral reform organised by the government turned out to be not so open due to the small room chosen to hold the event.

The absurdity of the situation became apparent after scores of people could not find seating in at the venue which was packed with government officers and colleagues of those in the ruling coalition.

In the line of fire for making a mockery of the public hearing was chairman of Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform, Maximus Ongkili himself for allowing the event to take place in a small room called Bilik Kedah at the sprawling new Federal secretariat here.

Former chief minister, Yong Teck Lee, who arrived with a delegation of his Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) leaders, was among those outraged by the choice of venue for such an important event.

He said several of them could not find seating as very few seats were available.

“If you want a public hearing, you should hold it in a bigger place like a community hall, just like what Suhakam (Malaysian Human Rights Commission) does when they hold a public hearing,” said an agitated Yong.

Ongkili admitted that the venue was a mistake and promised to hold it in a bigger room next time.

Yong, who is SAPP president, was not so forgiving and said it was farcical that the committee and government organisers had not taken this into account and turned an important event into a charade.

He said the committee must be seen to be serious because the integrity of election system in the country now was under question

“It is important for them to hear from the public and not just hear in the left ear and (let it) out through the right ear,” he said.

The Parliamentary Select Committee was formed after thousands took to the streets to call for free and fair elections and protested against the Election Commission for failing to protect the integrity of the process. The hearing here began on Friday.

Have international observers

Meanwhile, despite the hiccup, Yong brought a numbers of issues peculiar to Sabah to the committee.

He also reminded Ongkili that he should be well aware of all the issues like phantom voters, fake ICs and outright corruption in the voting system as he had been in the opposition with Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) before which had suffered at the hands of Umno and the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Another Sabah politician Dr Chong Eng Leong, previously a PBS stalwart but now with PKR in the opposition, brought up the issue of immigrants being registered in the Sabah electoral rolls.

“I still have the names of about 80,000 (people) that are questionable,” he said when giving the committee copies of his report.

“Jabar Khan Napi, the former secretary of an Umno Task Force that was chaired by (current Chief Minister) Musa Aman with (current a deputy Chief Minister) Yahya Hussin as his deputy, has repeatedly revealed that the task force was to look for illegal immigrants to be given ICs and registered about 82,000 foreigners as voters in Sabah, but no action has been taken to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry regarding this sovereignty matter,” he said.

A Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) representative in Sabah, Kanul Gindol, meanwhile wants the government and the Election Commission to invite reputable international election observers to monitor the coming general election.

He also said that the campaign period of eight or 10 days was far to short for such an important event and it should be extended to 14 days to allow candidates to take their message to those living in far-flung constituencies in Sabah and Sarawak which were well off the beaten track.

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