As expected, the Parliamentary Select Committee will try to sideline the importance of the Bersih 2.0 movement, even though the protest on July 9 was the single most powerful condemnation of the existing electoral process in our nations history.
By right, the Select Committee ought to appoint members of the Bersih 2.0 movement, or any of the 62 NGOs in its lineup, to be consultative members of the committee.
A Select Committee is a parliamentary device employed to solicit the views of the Rakyat in as inclusive a manner as possible. For Bersih 2.0 to be excluded is typical of the high-handed arrogance of the Barisan Nasional and its acolytes.
The governments adamant refusal to include Bersih 2.0 in instituting electoral reform is a telling sign of the Barisan Nasionals reluctance to take the Rakyats complaints of electoral cheating seriously.
As such, I do not have high hopes for the BN governments declared intention of cleaning up our polls.
In recent weeks, we have continued to receive damning evidence of electoral fraud from members of the armed forces. These ex-servicemen have outlined a wide range of abuses of the postal voting system, involving military personnel.
Postal vote fixing public knowledge
These snippets revealing voting irregularities involving our armed forces merely confirm what ordinary Malaysians have known to be public fact for a long time.
The secrecy of our military postal ballot has long been compromised. In practice, at each general election, a huge number of postal votes have been entrusted to a few individual personnel to mark them as they wish.
After more than half a century, and a dozen general elections, little has been done to protect the sanctity of the postal vote.
This betrays BNs underlying assumption that the countrys militar! y must b e loyal to the party in power, thereby contravening the principle that the confidentiality of postal votes is sacrosanct.
As long as this issue is not resolved, and the BN takes no action to defend the secrecy of postal votes by military personnel, the electoral system in Malaysia is never going to be free and fair, thereby reducing the entire process of postal voting to a laughing stock.
While the controversy surrounding the composition of the Select Committee goes on unabated, nothing has been promised regarding the protection of the independence of the postal votes by army personnel.
As far as I am concerned, as long as nothing is done to protect that secrecy, the electoral system in Malaysia is condemned to be compromised.
Postal votes will never be a secret in army camps. And the elected government of the day cannot be said to enjoy the free and full support of the Rakyat.
Necessity for electoral reform
There are some arguments about whether the clean-up of the polls can be completed by the Election Commission before the next general election.
Personally, I would like to see our Parliament take more time in instituting long-lasting reforms in our electoral system, especially in ensuring the validity and secrecy of postal votes. If that requires more time, then so be it. It is better to do a thorough job than a rushed one.
The Parliamentary Select Committee is a useful legislative instrument in pooling together the views of a multiparty parliament.
In Malaysia, such a bipartisan attempt at parliamentary reform has never been a grand success, though a credible attempt was made in the 1980s: the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Dangerous Drugs (Preventive Measures) Act 1985 made an effort to visit every state to gather the Rakyats views on the proposed legislation.
The development of a healthy parliamentary democracy does depend very much on how our politicians are able to work across party lines, to make sur! e that t he end result represents the collective will of the people.
In the past, the process of nonpartisan committees has never been a grand success. There is no reason to believe that statesman-like vision will prevail over partisan or sectarian vested interests this time.
Frankly, I think we will fail again at this attempt to forge a multi-party attempt at electoral reform. Parliamentary reform still remains, as ever, an elusive task in our country.
SIM KWANG YANG was member of parliament for Bandar Kuching, Sarawak from 1982 to 1995. He can be reached at email@example.com. All comments are welcome.