Weekly Highlights

The PSC should summon the EC to explain the UNDI18 and AVR debacle

The Election Commission’s (EC) arbitrary decision to delay and postpone the lowering of voting age to 18 years old and the Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) initiative has been widely criticised.

Indeed, the decision is a major defiance against the will of Parliament, as Parliament has unanimously passed the constitutional amendments to the effect 20 months ago.

This incident also highlights another key problem with regards to the EC, which is the lack of accountability and transparency.

In their press release, the EC merely attributed the delay to Covid-19. The EC failed to provide any details on what has been done to implement the UNDI18 and AVR initiatives in the past 20 months and what further steps are still needed.

The EC has also claimed that they have consulted with political parties. This is utterly false as I can confirm that the EC has never had any meeting or communication with the DAP on the UNDI18 and AVR issue.

The EC is an independent body established under the Federal Constitution. It is mandated to conduct elections without fear and favour towards any parties.

However, in the present system, the EC is placed under the purview of the Prime Minister’s department. This means that the EC does not have full autonomy with regards to its finances and operations. Even in parliament, questions put forth by MPs to the EC are answered by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

It seems that the EC is not answerable directly to anyone.

The DAP has always advocated that the EC must be made answerable to and monitored by a bi-partisan committee in Parliament. That is why a specific PSC on Elections, of which I was a member, was set up when Pakatan Harapan (PH) was in government.

The PSC on Elections would have been the most appropriate forum to scrutinise the current debacle on UNDI18 and AVR. Unfortunately, the PSC on Elections has been abolished by the current Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

In the previous parliament sitting, I have protested this decision to the Speaker and government. They responded that election matters can now come under the new PSC on the Agencies under the Prime Minister’s Department.

I further argued that such an arrangement would be defective because the scope of the PSC is too wide to be able to monitor the EC effectively on a continuous basis. Unfortunately, the Speaker and Minister did not heed my advice.

Nevertheless, the underlying importance is for the EC to be accountable to parliament. I echo the call by Lim Kit Siang, MP Iskandar Puteri, that the PSC on Agencies under the Prime Minister Department should summon the chairperson of the EC to explain why the EC is not capable of fulfilling UNDI18 and AVR.

As a member of the said PSC, I will be writing to the Speaker and fellow members to convene the committee and summon the EC for an explanation. I urge the Speaker and the members of the committee to agree with this proposal in the interest of transparency, accountability, and good governance.

Khoo Poay Tiong

MP Kota Melaka

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