Malaysia debates indelible ink not used for polls

May 18th, 2008 - 7:48 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, May 18 (IANS) Malaysians are debating why indelible ink, imported from India, was not used during the March general elections with the government saying it had “merely suggested” to the election commission (EC) not to use it. The cabinet merely suggested to EC not to use the indelible ink for the general elections. It was not a directive, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Saturday.

EC chief Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman now wants a review of the poll body’s law and the powers given under the constitution.

It was something “the EC actually requires in order to put the commission in a position of strength. A position where you can really determine the proper conduct of elections,” he was quoted in The Star Sunday.

The prime minister disclosed that a week before parliament was dissolved, the cabinet had made the suggestion, giving its reasons why it did not want the ink to be used.

The suggestion had come after reports that the opposition Pan Islamic Malaysian Party (PAS) had got its own supplies following which the ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) also procured supplies from outside, independent of the government.

The government “acted cautiously” to prevent the use of ink for electoral practices. “We had received information that some quarters had bought the ink, although they had no authority to do so and we were suspicious that it could be used to cause confusion and complications during the voting process,” Badawi told the media Saturday.

About 45,000 bottles of indelible ink had been earlier imported from India that uses it for its own elections and sells to other countries as well.

Badawi, who said everything went well (in the elections) and that everyone had accepted the results, questioned why the matter was being turned into an issue.

“It’s not as if by not using the ink, the whole (elections) process would have been nullified,” the New Straits Times said Sunday.

He said he hoped the media would drop the issue as the elections were over.

However, the debate has revived since Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said in a parliament reply May 6 that the police did not find evidence of smuggled indelible ink and statements made by complainants and witnesses were rumours.

He said the cabinet believed that the election process would go on smoothly and all eligible voters could cast their votes if the indelible ink was not used.

“It was only a suggestion we made to the EC chairman. It was up to him to think it over and agree or to proceed with the original decision to use the ink,” he said.

When the decision to scrap the use of the ink was announced at the eleventh hour of the general elections, Barisan Nasional leaders including Abdullah had said that they wanted an explanation from the EC on why it was doing away with the indelible ink.

The opposition said the revelation that it was the cabinet that did not approve the use of the indelible ink was the “best proof” that the EC was not independent or neutral.

Transparency International Malaysia’s Indian origin President Ramon Navaratnam said he was not only surprised but confused by the conflicting statements.

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