Dear Ambassador Malott
Your open letter to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib essentially argued that the demonstration by the Bersih 2.0 coalition indicated that Malaysia does not hold free and fair elections. You suggested several reforms, including the use of indelible ink as proof of voting, witnessing of postal balloting and international observations. A related point involved media issues, saying that RTM is little more than a government mouthpiece.
However, contrary to your premise, the last elections were free and fair. Not only was the voting observed by such independent groups as MAFREL, but also the casting, opening and counting of ballot boxes were observed by both government and opposition parties. But the ultimate proof can be seen in the historical gains made by opposition parties.They not only won parliamentary seats that had long belonged to the ruling party, substantially slicing the government’s majority, but also gained power in such major states as Penang, Selangor, Kedah, Perak and Kelantan If elections were rigged in any shape, form or fashion, do you really think this would have been the outcome?
Were there irregularities during the election? There could be minor ones that do not affect validity of the previous election results. If there were major irregularities, our court of law would have dealt with them . So far there were none. You doubt is understandable as irregularities do happen in your democracy. All you have to do is look at the “phantom” voters in Chicago that put John Kennedy in the White House in 1960 and the questionable “butterfly ballots” in Florida that helped put George W. Bush in the White House in 2000. The Election Commission has promised to vigorously prosecute anyone violating election laws, and Malaysia will continue to work toward eliminating any electoral irregularities.
Yes, the use of indelible ink can provide insurance against voting fraud, but it does have a downside. All you have to do is ask the Iraqi voters who were targeted for retribution after their fingers were marked with blue ink after voting. Actually, biometric identification is the wave of the future, especially as Malaysia seeks to move up the value chain. Biometric identification not only helps eliminate fraud, but provides valuable data concerning democratic participation. Already, every visitor to Malaysia is registered via a biometric database, and it seems reasonable to extend this capability to the entire population.
Does RTM reflect government viewpoints? I’m sure that many in government would disagree with that. At any rate, the issue is almost irrelevant. A decade ago, a monolithic media outlet could have impacted public opinion and even elections. But this is the age of the Internet, where a wide range of diverse opinions are available at the click of a mouse. If someone doesn’t like RTM’s reporting, they are free to search out different views on malaysiakini.com or numerous other sites and blogs, or read opposition papers. Additionally, is the situation with RTM any different than the situation with Fox News in United States, which is owned by Rudolph Murdoch’s News Corporation which has been associated with hacking the voice mails of teen murder victims and bribing police officials? Fox News routinely parroted the talking points of the Bush White House and continues to spin its broadcasts toward extremist views. But US citizens who disagree can easily find alternative viewpoints, just as Malaysians can if they don’t believe that RTM is impartial.
On the issue of international observers for postal votes and balloting, I would only concur with your ideas if there are guarantees the observers are non partisan and are truly independent. So far, the prevailing mood and sentiments demands that the so called observers should be on the side of the opposition. Else, the opposition parties in Malaysia would reject their findings. We do not wish to have a situation where a team of observers need to be appointed to observe the observers.
Just look at you, Ambassador Malott , are you writing the open letter as a concerned global citizen who are impartial, non partisan and truly independent ?
Malaysia is fully committed to democracy and ensuring that all citizens have an opportunity to comment on government policies and participate fully in politics, no matter what side they choose. The only thing that’s asked is tolerance and a sense of community.
Malaysia is a diverse nation, as you know from your service here, and we value diversity of opinion. So please continue to offer your observations, and make your voice heard, just as Malaysians will make their voices heard in the free and fair elections that will be held in the coming months. Thank you.