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Thread: SPR: Absent voters' status: Decision on Jan 6

   
   
       
  1. #1
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    SPR: Absent voters' status: Decision on Jan 6

    Absent voters’ status: Decision on Jan 6


    January 3, 2012
    Six Malaysians working abroad are challenging the Election Commission's decision to register them as ordinary voters instead of absent voters.
    KUALA LUMPUR: The Election Commission (EC) has failed to state any reason or basis to justify the exclusion of six Malaysians residing and working abroad from being registered as absent voters for the next general election, the High Court was told today.

    Counsel Edmund Bon, representing the six, said the EC rejected their requests on the grounds that they did not qualify for registration as absent voters under the definition of “absent voter” pursuant to the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002.

    “But the EC did not justify its decision or the objective of the regulation, which allows some citizens and some not,” he submitted in the judicial review application filed by six Malaysians residing and working in the United Kingdom to compel the EC to register them as absent voters.

    Bon said that excluding the six from being registered as absent voters was clearly an unfair and discriminatory treatment to all citizens.

    “The applicants are resident overseas and, therefore, should be able to vote as absent voters under Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, of fundamental right to vote,” he said.

    Senior Federal Counsel Amarjeet Singh, acting for the EC, countered that the EC found that the six applicants did not qualify to be registered as absent voters pursuant to Regulation 2 of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 as they were residing and working in the private sector overseas.

    He said the EC held that the six did not fall within the category of persons entitled to be absent voters, and that the EC lawfully rejected their request.

    Amarjeet Singh said the six, residing and working abroad by their own choice, can return to Malaysia for election day.
    Judge Datuk Rohana Yusuf fixed Jan 6 to give the verdict.

    The six applicants are doctors Teo Hoon Seong, 43, and Yolanda Sydney Augustin, 31, electrical engineer V. Vinesh, 32, businessman Paramjeet Singh, 54, interpreter Sim Tze Wei, 28, and software architect Leong See See, 41.

    The six have sought a declaration that as Malaysian citizens residing abroad, they are entitled to be registered as absent voters, meaning that they will be eligible to vote by post.

    They are seeking an order of certiorari to quash a decision of the EC dated Sept 9, 2011, not to register them as absent voters, and a mandamus order for the EC to register them as absent voters.
    -Bernama

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  2. #2
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    High Court says no to overseas ‘absent voters’
    UPDATED @ 12:58:37 PM 06-01-2012
    By Melissa Chi
    January 06, 2012

    KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — The KL High Court dismissed today the application of six Malaysians residing in Britain to be registered as absent voters in the next general election.

    The six are Dr Teo Hoon Seong, electrical engineer V. Vinesh, entrepreneur Paramjeet Singh, Dr Yolanda Sydney Augustin, translator Sim Tze Wei and software architect Leong See See.
    Their lawyer Edmund Bon submitted that the Election Commission had acted illegally and irrationally when it rejected the application of the six, and also failed to give any reason or basis to justify their exclusion.

    The EC’s regulations define an “absent voter” only as citizens who are members of the armed forces, public servants, full-time students, or their spouses, and thus allowed to cast postal votes.

    Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, however, broadly defines “absent voters” as voters so long as they are citizens above 21 years of age, and are registered as electors for their respective constituencies.

    Today, judge Datuk Rohana Yusuf ruled that the applicants “clearly” did not come under the allowed absent voter category.

    She pointed out that the six were not challenging the validity of Regulation 2 of the Elections Act, which defines the term “absent voter”, calling it “odd” that they are disputing a “perfectly valid” decision of the EC.

    On October 25 last year, the plaintiffs applied for judicial review to compel the EC to register them as absent voters in the next general election.

    They had sought a declaration that, as Malaysians staying abroad, they were entitled to be registered as absent voters, and directed the EC, named as the sole respondent, to register them.

    They also sought to quash a decision by the EC, which notified them in a letter dated September 9 the same year, that it would not register them as “absent voters”.

    Today, Rohana described the plaintiffs’ argument as “naïve and ignorant”, adding that the regulatory and administrative arms of the EC were two separate powers.

    “The application, in my view, is ludicrous and bordering an abuse of the court process,” she said.

    py

  3. #3
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    Bersih says court denied constitutional right of overseas voters

    By Shannon Teoh
    January 07, 2012

    KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — Bersih has said it is unconstitutional for the High Court to dismiss yesterday the application of six Malaysians residing in Britain to be registered as absent voters.

    The electoral reform movement said in a statement last night the High Court here “failed to uphold the constitutional right” of “not just the six applicants but up to approximately 700,000 overseas Malaysians.”

    Judge Datuk Rohana Yusuf had ruled that the applicants “clearly” did not come under the allowed absent voter category.

    The Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 define “absent voters” as citizens who are members of the armed forces, public servants, full-time students, or their spouses who are allowed to cast postal votes.
    But Bersih said Article 119 of the Federal Constitution clearly defines an absent voter as any qualified and registered voter who is not a resident in his or her constituency.

    “It is the duty of the Election Commission (EC) to uphold the democratic rights of all citizens of Malaysia. However, the EC has failed to uphold the right to vote of overseas Malaysians,” the coalition of 62 NGOs said.

    Bersih, whose July 9 rally last year drew tens of thousands of supporters to march for free and fair elections in the capital, insisted that reform of absentee voting is of “utmost importance” and called on the EC to immediately amend election regulations to “enfranchise all overseas Malaysians.”

    Rohana said yesterday the six were not challenging the validity of Regulation 2 of the Elections Act, which defines the term “absent voter” but instead disputed a “perfectly valid” decision of the EC.

    On October 25 last year, the plaintiffs applied for judicial review to compel the EC to register them as absent voters in the next general election.
    They had sought a declaration that, as Malaysians staying abroad, they were entitled to be registered as absent voters, and directed the EC, named as the sole respondent, to register them.

    They also sought to quash a decision by the EC, which notified them in a letter dated September 9 the same year, that it would not register them as “absent voters”.

    “The application, in my view, is ludicrous and bordering on an abuse of the court process,” Rohana had ruled.

    The government set up a parliamentary select committee to improve elections after international condemnation of its clampdown on the July 9 rally which saw over 1,500 arrests, scores injured and the death of an ex-soldier.

    But opposition leaders, who strongly supported the march, have threatened further protests if electoral reforms including eight key demands by Bersih are not implemented before the next general election.

    py

  4. #4
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    SPR: Why the EC must support overseas voting

    Why the EC must support overseas voting


    Yesterday the Kuala Lumpur High Court heard a judicial review application on behalf of six overseas Malaysians challenging discriminatory practices by the Malaysian Electoral Commission in respect to overseas voting.

    This is an issue that has been widely discussed and debated over the last few months amongst the Malaysian community, both at home and abroad.

    Although many believe the Electoral Commission's current rules on overseas voting rights based on occupation, are discriminatory and unfair, some have voiced opposition to the call for overseas voting rights for all Malaysians living abroad.

    In the run up to the court's verdict on January the 6th I would like to respond to comments made by M Bakri Musa. In his article on 7th Nov 2011 entitled 'Malaysians Abroad Should Not Vote' (), Bakri argues that (sic) 'Malaysians abroad on permanent residency visas should not seek or be given the right to vote in Malaysian elections because they have essentially decided that there is no hope for them in Malaysia. If they were to harbor any sliver of hope for change, then they would have stayed behind and agitated for change from there, where their efforts would have the potential of having the greatest impact.'

    I have lived abroad for many years in the UK. However I have chosen to retain my Malaysian citizenship and retain a deep psychological and social connection with the country of my birth.

    I take time to keep updated on Malaysian current affairs and continue to hope and pray that Malaysia might be able to one day reach her full potential and be the democratic, just and developed nation she is capable of becoming.

    I am allowed to vote in the UK as a citizen of a Commonwealth country but I am discriminated against by the Malaysian Electoral Commission and denied the right to an overseas vote because I am not a civil servant, armed personnel or student.

    In the year 2012 we live in a global community where information technology, global travel and migration have made the world a much smaller place than it was 20 years ago.


    Why then do we clamour to disenfranchise those who dare to live outside the boundaries of that part of the world where they happen to have been born. Is that not wrong?


    A democracy should function by tapping the communal wisdom of its members, rather than as described by Bakri, a method of choosing a tax plan.

    In the absence of that, excluding those with the nous to live abroad, is a weakening of that democratic process.

    Following his argument, if the timid were unable to seek 'greener pastures', we should expect to have a government with poorly thought out policies cowing the remaining populace, eroding their backbone, much like the example he draws about Malaysian student activity currently being severely curtailed and heavily regulated by the government.

    Is that the 1Malaysia we aspire to build? Does it not take courage to demand representation?

    One of the slogans associated with the American Revolution was "No taxation without representation". Americans in the thirteen colonies were governed by the British Parliament and paid tax to the Government, but had no representation in that government.

    The argument that the Malaysian diaspora living abroad must not have the right to vote because they don't pay tax is unreasonable. It means they must not have a say.

    It makes them less Malaysian than those back home, it demeans their personal contribution, if any in terms of remittances, purchases, properties and investments in Malaysia. And in most instances, these are taxed.

    If there was no Malaysian diaspora, there would not be a Malaysia in the world. We would continue to be the postcolonial backwater, an afterthought, a faraway place no one goes to or hears of, an idyllic Malaya, a jungly Borneo, a perfunctory footnote in some dusty library book in some distant place, somewhere.

    There is nothing wrong in living abroad, and nothing to lose by allowing Malaysians overseas to vote for the representatives they wish to run the government.

    Restricting the right to vote is the thin end of the wedge, the catalyst that would drive Malaysians into deeper apathy about the government, and the road to serfdom.

    Without the ballot box, we don't have a voice, if we don't speak up now, we will be unable to speak later. And in Bakri's piece, it would seem that those allowed to vote, should be just those who pay tax.

    And that may or may not include university students, rural farmers and fishermen, the young, the very old, the infirm, the disabled, and of course, those living and working abroad.

    Who is to say that the right to vote could be restricted to far narrower categories? Or even curtailed by lack of papers, application forms, or any process and prejudice that disenfranchises Malaysians?

    Who is to say that the right to vote in Malaysia could not be limited further? Today, we can read of instances of immigrants obtaining legal Mykad. What does that mean to genuine Malaysians?


    In a nutshell, we vote in representatives to run the government and serve the people. We must aspire to become a liberal democracy with a government that would protect our rights, and uphold the institutions of state to the highest standards.

    A democracy that is just and fair and not one limited by a personal tax plan, or residency.
    py

  5. #5
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    SPR: Overseas Voters Must Demand The Right To Vote!



    ‘Overseas M’sians must assert right to vote’


    Aneesa Alphonsus
    | January 29, 2012

    Bersih co-chairman A Samad Said may be 76-years-old, but he's not 'leaving' without letting Malaysians know that they 'must fight for their country'.



    KUALA LUMPUR: National laureate A Samad Said wants Malaysians abroad to assert themselves and demand their right to vote in the 13th general election.

    Samad, who is now the co-chairperson of Bersih coalition, believes that there is no sound enough reason why Malaysians living and working abroad should be deprived of their most fundamental right.

    “All Malaysians abroad should fight for that (their right to vote) from where they are.
    “They should insist that their voices be recorded, that they have a right to vote and they must vote.

    “If their right to vote is denied than as Malaysian citizens, they can deny the elections.
    “I can’t stand intimidation, fraud, dishonesty. I think everyone, every Malaysian should go and fight against this so they can get the kind of country they want.

    “You want to see a change? Then vote and insist on it.

    “If I don’t remind them to do this, I’m not carrying out my responsibilities,” he told FMT recently.

    Pak Samad, as he is fondly known to many Malaysians, went on to add that the question of difficulty should not take precedence over what needs to be done.

    He said it was the duty of every Malaysian abroad to fight for their right to vote.

    ‘Overseas Malaysians must demand rights’

    He said Malaysians abroad should let their respective embassy representatives know of their right and desire to vote.

    The right to vote for overseas Malaysians was one of the eight demands that Bersih 2.0 made to the Election Commission. The EC however has not weighed this yet.

    Pak Samad said it was not enough that in-country Malaysians fight on behalf of their brethren abroad for the right to vote.

    “Malaysians (abroad) too must be willing to take steps towards making this a reality.
    “They can change things. If all Malaysians abroad don’t fight for this, what are they doing outside there?

    “I’m not saying it’s their sole responsibility to make this happen, but they should be accountable for the positive changes this country can achieve.

    “If they allow the country to go on like this for another five decades in the hands of Barisan National, what will happen then?

    “We are not talking about another five years of the government being in power, it’s five decades. It’s time. It’s the right time,” he said vehemently.

    ‘Everyone must band together’




    Until July 9, 2011, Pak Samad was best known as author. These days, he’s being celebrated as an activist as well.

    At the height of the massive Bersih rally, Pak Samad became a national phenomenon when he lost his slippers in the crowd and walked barefoot all the way to the gates of the palace.
    At 76, Pak Samad is ready to die but not before he has said his piece.

    When presented with the notion that many of the Malaysians abroad feel apathy towards their right to vote and are disillusioned by vote-buying, Pak Samad had this reply: “Irrespective of these things, you still have to vote. It is your right.

    “If everyone bands together, it will work.

    “Don’t allow the government to use racial, religious issues against us. Don’t allow them to say they are enriching the country. They are not enriching the country.

    “Why aren’t these Malaysians doing anything? If things go on like this, we can be on the verge of bankruptcy.

    “So if we don’t do what we can, don’t blame (Prime Minister) Najib (Tun Razak) or Nazri Aziz, or (Dr) Chua Soi Lek.

    “We should blame ourselves. We must fight, otherwise don’t complain,” he said.
    It must be noted that a test case filed by six Malaysians working in Britain to have the right to cast their ballots abroad failed when it was over-ruled by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Jan 6.

    The court dismissed their application by ruling that the Election Commission was following the rules in not allowing them to cast their ballots abroad.

    The six had wanted the court to compel the EC to register them as absent voters and amend its regulation within two weeks to allow all Malaysians to vote overseas.
    py

  6. #6
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    By Yam Phui Yee
    Constitutional right … Malaysians living abroad want to be able to cast their votes just like fellow citizens back home. EPApix

    Six Malaysians working and residing in the United Kingdom plan to appeal against last Friday’s High Court ruling which dismissed their application to register themselves as “absent voters”.






    They are not happy with the judgement and want to pursue it further by taking the case to the Court of Appeal.


    The issue arose from the current practice of defining absent voters as members of the army, civil servants or full-time students, and their spouses as under Regulation 2 of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulation 2002 (ER 2002).


    This definition raises the possibility that a sizeable number of an estimated one million Malaysians residing and working overseas now, and who are eligible to vote, cannot vote because they are not classified as absent voters.


    The six applicants -- Dr Teo Hoon Seong, engineer V. Vinesh, entrepreneur Paramjeet Singh, Dr Yolanda Sydney Augustin, translator Sim Tze Wei and software architect Leong See See --took the Election Commission (EC) of Malaysia to court for refusing to register them as absent voters, thus prohibiting them to participate in the next general election via postal voting.


    The hope was that the court would consider the validity of including other categories in the definition of “absent voters” to enable categories other than the four groups specified in ER 2002 to vote.


    Last Friday, High Court Justice Rohana Yusuf ruled and concluded that the application was "ludicrous and bordering on abuse of court process" (The Star), on the basis that the applicants had merely questioned the EC’s decision based on the ER 2002 and were not challenging the law's validity.


    As such, she said that the Regulation remained and that the EC was simply complying with the said law.


    Expressing regret … MyOverseasVote posts its disappointment online on Jan 9.
    With her decision, she effectively left a good number of people out of the election process. In the case of a general election, that block of votes could influence election results.


    Lobby groups, however, are not standing down. MyOverseasVote, set up by a group of Malaysians and which has been campaigning for Malaysians abroad to vote, will be assisting the six in their appeal.


    In a statement posted on their website on Monday, the group said that the applicants will be filing an appeal with a certificate of urgency and called on all Malaysians to support their fight for equal voting rights.


    It explained that the six Malaysians had stated that the ER 2002 was discriminatory and a violation of the equality for all citizens granted under Article 8 and Article 119 of the Constitution.


    The statement said that the six did not ask the court to repeal ER 2002 but to either: (a) allow them to register as absent voter based on Article 119 and Article 8, or (b) compel the EC to extend the definition of “absent voters” to cover other Malaysians abroad.
    Article 119(1) of the Constitution says that every citizen who is 21 years old, is a resident of a constituency or is an absent voter, and who has registered in the electoral roll, has the right to vote. An absent voter would thus be able to vote from anywhere in the world, for a candidate in the constituency of his/her residential address via mail.


    In practice, the EC has traditionally defined “absent voters” as the four categories named in ER 2002, namely members of the army, civil servants, full-time students, and their spouses.


    Leong … provisions of law must seek to facilitate and not defeat Constitutional rights.
    Bar Council vice president Christopher Leong said that there is no rationale or logic as to why the categories of absent voters should be confined to the ones under the ER 2002 because any provisions of law must seek to facilitate the rights provided under the Federal Constitution, and not defeat it.


    “We are of the view that Regulation 2 of the ER, in seeking to confine the categories of ‘absent voters’, is in conflict with Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, and is therefore invalid,” Leong said in an email interview.


    He added that “it was incumbent upon the court to have nevertheless asked itself whether Regulation 2 of the ER was constitutional or not.”


    Leong gave two scenarios to illustrate his point. First, if the Regulation 2 of the ER 2002 is construed to be non-exhaustive in its definition of an “absent voter”, it is then not in conflict with the Federal Constitution, and the six Malaysians (and many others) are entitled to be registered as absent voters.


    Second, he argued, however, if the Regulation 2 was intended to be exhaustive in its definition, then it was unconstitutional, and therefore invalid.


    “Either way, the Election Commission should have been compelled by the court to register the six Malaysians as absent voters,” he declared.


    The issue has its roots in ER 2002’s early predecessor, the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 1958, which seemed to have not had provisions on absent voters.
    This was addressed in 1971 in the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 1971, Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations (Sarawak) 1971 and Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations (Sabah) 1971, which were consolidated in the ER 2002.


    All this time, this right has only been enjoyed by absent voters as stated in the four categories in ER 2002.


    The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reform, in its interim report last month, noted that the EC should take necessary steps to ensure that all Malaysians who qualify should be entitled to absentee voting.


    The EC, last August, had announced that it would make postal voting possible for Malaysians working overseas, but did not promise that it would be implemented before the next general elections, which is widely speculated to be held this year.


    Meanwhile, MyOverseasVote has submitted draft regulations for overseas postal voting to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reforms in December.


    Its coordinator Andrew Yong told GoodTimes.my: “We have not heard anything more from the PSC, but we believe they are considering some limitation on overseas voting, based on length of time overseas. We believe (that) this is impractical, because the EC can't even remove dead voters, let alone monitor people entering and leaving the country.”
    “We believe the EC is trying to avoid extending overseas voting until after the elections,” he claimed.
    py

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