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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Secret ballot for the election of the Parliament Speaker


22 JUNE 2013

Secret ballot for the election of the Parliament Speaker is mandatory and best practice as well. Public need to know all the nominees.

The Secretary to Parliament Datuk Rosmee Hamzah is quoted In Malaysiakini 21 June 2012 at 5.33 pm as saying that “more than two names have been nominated for the speaker position but refused to comment further”.

The election of the Speaker of Parliament is without any doubt a matter of public interest. Under the Parliament Standing Orders, nominations have to be submitted by 10th June. Pakatan has proposed Datuk Abdul Kadir Sulaiman, a former Federal Court judge and a person unaffiliated to any political party consistent with our position that the Office of the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat should be an independent institution as is the case in other modern democratic parliaments. We have also publicly announced our nomination.

We call upon Barisan Nasional to publicly announce their nomination instead of remaining silent on it. We also call upon the Secretary of Parliament who is vested with the sole authority to conduct the election of the speaker under the standing orders to publicly announce all the nominated names. The public have a right to know. These are not national or official secrets.

The election of the Speaker will be the first order of business on Monday morning and is entirely under the control of the Secretary to Parliament.

Secrecy of the ballot process and transparency in the counting are clear in the spirit and letter of Standing Order 4 ( see http://www.parlimen.gov.my/news/PM_DR_BI.pdf).

Modern Parliaments including Westminster which we claim to follow by convention ensure a proper secret ballot by requiring members of parliament to line up before the Secretary, receive their ballot papers, vote in privacy, put their ballot papers publicly into a box which are then counted transparently. This practice is now established best practice and is intended that members of Parliament are free to elect their choice of speaker without being dictated to by party lines or the so-called “whip”.

The previous speaker election in the Malaysian parliament in 2004 when the then Speaker Tun Zahir passed away did not meet this standard. Ballot papers were given to members of Parliament at their seats who then marked their ballot papers in each other’s company. Collection of ballot papers was not done in a manner transparent to all present. Such a process clearly is not acceptable. The mere fact that a Speaker election was done in this manner before does not justify its repetition.

Standing Order 4 does not actually specify the place at which a member will receive her ballot paper, mark it and where it will be collected by the Speaker. The only place specified is in relation to the counting of ballots which will be done at “the Table of the House”. Therefore the detailed process is unspecified.

Hence Pakatan Rakyat has requested the Secretary to Parliament to ensure that on Monday morning, the election process must in fact be done AND SEEN TO BE DONE by a secure and proper secret ballot and with transparent counting.

We have requested that we follow the best practice of other modern democratic parliaments by requiring members of parliament to line up, receive their ballot papers, vote in privacy, place their ballot papers publicly into a box which are then counted transparently. Otherwise, the Secretary to Parliament will be repeating in Parliament the fiasco of a fraud tainted manipulated GE 13. This request has been communicated in writing by myself yesterday in writing as instructed by the Leader of the Opposition and also in a meeting with the Secretary herself yesterday midday.

We appreciate the willingness of the Secretary of Parliament to meet with us yesterday and discuss the matter. However the statement made by her as reported in Malaysiakini where “she refused to comment on whether the ballot will be secret or not” raises serious concern. Also, her reported use of the phrase “letter ballot” is a literal translation of the Bahasa term “undi tersurat” – the proper English term is simply to say, as the Standing Orders do, is to say that the election is to be conducted by ballot ( which means with ballot papers, as opposed to a open show of hands ).

However we need to put on record again the firm reminder issued by the Leader of the Opposition Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in his media statement on 20th June 2013 that the election of the Speaker has to be done by a proper secret ballot – otherwise there will be trouble in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday morning.

If an improper process is bulldozed through by Barisan Nasional using its majority, it will only serve to confirm that the Barisan Nasional is an insecure government that cannot even elect a Parliament Speaker by a proper secret ballot.

Sivarasa Rasiah

Member of Parliament for Subang

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