Polling agents have been using the handphone to communicate with the people outside the polling centre to get help in case there are disputes unresolved inside the polling centre or the polling stations. There is no doubt that this is needed to improve the dispute resolution since the leader of the PACA from the parties can step in to bring their greater expertise from their past experiences. Now the EC want to, reportedly( see report below), ban the handphone on account of the wish by the EC to stop election results to leak out to the outside before the Form 14 is signed-which would have certified the results and make it public. This has not caused any problems in the past and arguably a safeguard to prevent any drastic changes to the results that come from ballot manipulations.
In fact the preferred way to do the ballot counting is to do it publicly if that can be arranged. When the ballot were counted in a centralised counting centre as done in the past the counting is witnessed by a lot of people-and there was no problems for people to know the progress of the count. But then the rules were changed to count the ballots on the spot where polling happen to prevent any hanky panky from happening in the transportation of the ballot boxes from the varous polling stations to the counting centres. This problems could have been solved by allowing PACA to accompany the transportation of the ballot boxes. However this option was not considered.
The new rule then and now is to count the ballots on the spot-which also cause other problems eg while the individual’s votes are still secret the voting preference of the voters in a small areas eg a block of flats or a long houses/few houses, a kampung which vote in a certain polling centre will be known-and the voters may be punished collectively if they don’t vote according to the incumbent parties who continue to rule after the election. Such a condition actually make the polling not free-an essential ingredient for a credible poll. This will be avoided if the ballots are counted in a centralised way where the secrecy of the votes are better protected. Now since it was no problems for the progress of the vote count be witnesses by the public why then there is such an objection to the handphone to be used in polling/counting stations to report the progress of the vote count?
Look like the whole thinking is to keep the polling/counting stations away from public view ie to make it less transparent. The intention is less than honourable since it is well known that more frauds can be perpetrated if less scrutiny is available. It is well known that individual PACA from BN or Opposition may not be so well trained and need to call upon more help when disputes happen. By refusing the handphone to be used then outside help will be stopped.
The practice to count the ballots in a decentralised ways is problematic for the candidates as well as they have to recruit and train their PACA which run into 100 persons. This is a real challenge to many candidates as most if not all PACA need to be paid eg RM50.00/head, totalling another Rm5k expenses to each candidate! If there are not enough PACA by a candidate then there part parts of the polling centres where the ballot counting is not scrutinised by all sides to the election. This arguably is unfair to a candidate. The ability to recruit and train 100 over PACA is not an ability on which a candidate should be judged by the voters. It should be their law making capacity, their past records on their stands and deliveries that should be the central criteria. It is an open secret that many Opposition candidates with lesser access to campaign fund did not have or did not have enough PACA in all the electons since the deccentralised counting is introduced.
To the party they may have more precise info on where their supporters are from the return of the individual polling center and polling stations. However this information can boomerang to hit them -specifically it allows gerrymandering to be done on a more precise way! Gerrymandering is the partisan way to re-draw the electoral boundaries which the EC is empowered to do every 8 years. The EC has been criticised for partisanship in the exercise -due precisely to the precise voter voting pattern which derived from breaking down the vote counting to smaller areas. How small -you may ask? It is less than 100 for many polling stations in the interior or long houses in Sarawak!
Actually this is not the only way that the proceedings are made less transparent. Another way is the stopping of recount once the Form 14 is signed.
It is unfair that the PACA can ask for recount of the ballots only inside the counting center and not after that. The reason is simply that : mistakes can happen in many points along the line. The scrutiny by the often ill-trained PACA may not be able to filter the mistakes which may affect the results-especially when the counts are close. So there should be a recount if the overall count is close as well. But this is prohibited currently. This is unfair -as could have happened in Senadin. Eg if a candidate don’t have or don’t have enough PACA then some or all the counting would not be scrutinised and therefore open to tempering. An overall recount -which is refused at the Senadin case, would have help give credibility to the results. Afterall the votes are down-nothing can or should alter it anymore. Why the unwillingness to allow recount-if not just to cover up some possible tempering eg deliberate spoiling of the ballots for the non-preferred candidate?
In the Senadin case a suspicious case did happened when some 80 ballots -more than the 58 winning margin, were found `spoilt’ in 1 polling station/class room. Fishy indeed. But the case can no longer be investigated after the ballot boxes were found to be broken and subsequently all the ballots were ordered to be mixed up in a big bag/container. It seems that those who tempered with the ballot boxes-which were supposed to be kept in a safe place till the petitions are over, are getting off scot-free! Some lawlessness happened -but the system could not and will not penalise the culprits. The serious outcome: the wrong candidate could be representing the constituency for the next 5 years. It is the EC’s job to act decisively to improve the credibility of the poll-not to allow tell-tale signs to linger in the public’s mind on the possible tempering of the results. The voters have spoken through the ballots-but if they are not duely tallied their voices are as good as muzzled.
SPR larang ejen SMS
Oleh S Anand Kumar dan Haspaizi Mohd Zain
Elak parti politik dedah keputusan tak rasmi PRU
PUTRAJAYA: Mulai Pilihan Raya Umum Ke-13 yang dijadualkan tidak lama lagi, ejen parti politik yang bertugas di pusat pengiraan undi dan pusat mengundi dilarang membawa masuk telefon bimbit.
Ia bagi mengelakkan parti politik menyalurkan maklumat, khususnya keputusan tidak rasmi menerusi khidmat pesanan ringkas (SMS), Facebook atau Tweeter sehingga menimbulkan kekeliruan di kalangan orang ramai seperti yang berlaku ketika Pilihan Raya Negeri Sarawak ke-10, baru-baru ini.