Crisps of the Week (20-26 April)

brought to you by Sandra Rajoo

REFSA Rojak is our weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia. We trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.

Winning just 18.9 per cent of votes, but able to capture 50.4 per cent of Parliament

A government formed with just an 18.9 per cent win sounds incredulous. How, you may ask.  The answer: through malapportionment (unequally-sized constituencies) and gerrymandering (manipulation of electoral boundaries).  Electoral boundaries created by the Election Commission (EC) have produced this lopsided result – one rural voter is worth an average of six urban voters. Election watchdog Tindak Malaysia said that in 2008, the BN coalition obtained just 18.9% of the popular vote but was able to form a simple majority in Parliament because it won 112 of the smallest 139 federal seats.

Roll-call for the electoral roll

Manipulating electoral boundaries becomes easy when we have a seriously flawed electoral roll. Multiple discrepancies in the roll were unearthed by researcher and project director of Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (Merap), Ong Kian Ming, and his team. If the electoral roll is any indication:

Bisexuals and lesbians are welcome.  Whoever says Malaysia is not open-minded and liberal has only to take a look at our electoral roll – it recognises bisexuality and lesbian marriages! Nearly 16,000 voters have IC numbers that say they are the opposite of their actual gender i.e. a male having an even number ending, and vice versa.  Seventy-two with a ‘bin’ in their names are listed as female. Our liberal-mindedness extends to the uniformed services. Harisah binti Ghani (770130-0356-68) was listed as being married to policewoman Zaini binti Hamzah (IC: T1110543).

Old is gold. We have another cause for celebration – 1000 voters are 100 years and above. One Wong Kwan Moy was listed as being born in 1853. This person would be 149 years old this year.  Another, Tey Kim, was born in 1890, making her 122 years old. These people should be feted!

Malaysians find certain names appealing. Malaysians can be quite unimaginative – so implies the electoral roll. 369 voters in Terengganu have the same name – Fatimah binti Ismail, while another 346 are called Fatimah binti Abdullah.  20 in the first group have the same date of birth as do 26 in the latter group. Coincidence?

The more the merrier. The electoral roll also tells us that, amazingly, one household can have as many as 100 people (the average household size in Malaysia is below 5). 324 addresses each have 100 voters registered while 1000 addresses have 50-100 voters each.  Either these people love company or they are destitute and are squatting with very accommodating relatives. Apparently, the EC will only formally investigate addresses with over 50 voters registered.

You don’t need a valid address to register. The EC also generously allows voters to register without proper addresses. It seems a house number is immaterial information. Perhaps these people are the homeless we sometimes find sleeping on five foot ways or under bridges?

The EC can raise the age limit for army recruits. Legally, the maximum age for army recruits is 30 years. However, in 2011, a regular voter in Kuala Kangsar, Abu Talib bin Ahmad, aged 42, was newly registered as an army postal voter. And in six months he was moved around twice, from Jeli to Kereteh. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

The EC allows spouses of police to be postal voters. By right, spouses of police officers cannot be postal voters. But, it was revealed that 4000 spouses of policemen were illegally registered as postal voters.

Bersih 3.0: Fighting electoral fraud

Dubious voters on the electoral list could number as many as 400,000 which may well lead to a swing in the overall election results.  Despite the inconsistencies being brought to the attention of relevant parties, they were largely ignored by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reform. In fact the Election Commission has been sitting on the information regarding 3.1 million dubious voters since 2002. Its chief Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof has smugly declared that Malaysia has the ‘cleanest electoral roll in the world’.

Since those in power are not keen to do right by the people, it is now up to Bersih 3.0 and all Malaysian citizens to do the right thing. On 28 April, Bersih, a coalition of 84 civil societies, will be at Dataran Merdeka for a sit-in demonstration to demand for electoral reform, as would be other demonstrators in 72 cities in 29 countries. Never mind that the police have cordoned off the area, and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has issued threats, the fight for free and fair elections must go on.

What are you doing this Saturday? Many of us, including REFSA’s executive director, Teh Chi-Chang, will be exercising our democratic right to sit peacefully in a public square. Do join in the picnic. Bring your own yellow banana.


Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!


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