Three Great Debates over three days on nine key issues can bring clarity on party basis for GE15!
There are lessons from America in particular for Malaysia, heading for GE15 on Sat 19 Nov 2020, on two key issues viz. electoral integrity — it’s about the process — and how the post-pandemic economy can be restored. Great topics for debates.
Electoral integrity and post-pandemic economy, the two key issues and other issues, should be Debated by the Prime Ministerial candidates before D-Day on GE15.
The third and fourth issues are about bringing back certainty — it means in values, pricing, wages and services — and confidence in the country. Confidence can be restored if government, under the Basic Features Doctrine (BFD), stands indemnified, has immunity, and implicit Pardon for “acts in office”. It’s not the done thing if every Prime Minister is going to be dragged to court the moment he or she steps down from public office. Law, like Karma (the law of cause and effect), does not exist unless we create it.
The Singapore government policy on ringgit may be the only immediate certainty for the Malaysian currency. Singapore does not want the S$ and RM gap to be too wide, arising from volatility based on velocity of circulation, as it would affect the island’s economy.
Again, on the economy and certainty, Malaysia should focus on the hospitality industry including medical tourism, FDI (foreign direct investment), longterm investment in stocks, education for the world and high volume exports to strengthen the ringgit. There’s a case for plugging into the Indian economy, and Indonesia, besides China. The global supply chain and international logistic issues created by the pandemic must be resolved in the immediate future.
PM Not Elected By People
If the US President isn’t elected directly by the people, the Prime Minister in Malaysia isn’t elected at all by the electorate. The latter issue came under global media scrutiny when Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The US President, as head of state and head of government, wears two hats viz. Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Chief Manager of the Economy.
The US President has free hand on foreign policy and virtually bombing foreign nations to thy kingdom come under the global security framework led by Washington.
Debates for Certainty
The Great Debate in Malaysia can take its cue from the fact that Presidential candidates are always judged solely on the basis of their performance as Chief Manager of the Economy or likely performance. “It’s about the economy stupid!” remains all too true in America.
It was always observed, before 2016, that no one ever lost the three great US Presidential Debates and became US President. The people, it’s said, can get a measure of the Presidential candidates from the three great presidential debates.
There’s always a first time.
Trump lost all three presidential debates and the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, but yet, became US President. He won the electoral college votes which picks the President. The electoral college is based on the winner take all popular votes at the state level. Very few states divide the electoral college proportionately, based on the popular vote, between the candidates.
Time Isn’t Luxury
Ideally, there should be three Great Malaysian Debates, each Debate consisting of three key issues i.e. making a total of nine key issues. The Debates can be at reasonable intervals apart, before Sat 19 Nov 2022, but time isn’t a luxury for the Debaters.
It may be presumptuous if the media determines and dictates the issues. In any case, Debaters cannot ignore some issues like rising prices and the role that the government and consumers can play in fighting inflation. Still, other issues can be mentioned. Some are unlikely to be debated.
In Sabah, the people want parliamentary Amnesty on Projek IC Mahathir which was the subject of a Public Inquiry in 2012/2013 under the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants or PTI (pendatang tanpa izin). The PTI has been flooding the Territory since Malaysia Day on 16 Sept 1963. The PTI say that going from the southern Philippines, for example, to Sabah is like moving from the kampung to the town.
Sabah MIC Chief Peer Mohamad, PTI from India, may be cited as the tip of the iceberg. Peer told the RCI that he holds a late registration birth certificate although he wasn’t born in Sabah. In adding insult to injury, and thereby generating further controversies on the matter, the Sabah government has appointed Peer as Director of Sawit Kinabalu, a state GLC. These things can only happen in Sabah.
Lipservice on Borneo Rights
Human rights advocate Daniel John Jambun, a former political secretary, has alleged that the authorities concerned are trying to cover up the Peer Mohd case. Daniel has lodged a police report against Peer Mohd and filed a private complaint with the Magistrate’s Court in Kota Kinabalu. He has received a letter from the police updating him on the case. The police disclosed that the Federal Attorney General Sabah Branch has passed the investigation papers to the Attorney General in Putrajaya.
“I don’t know why the Sabah Attorney General didn’t get the investigation papers,” said Daniel. “The High Court of Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak) and the High Court of Malaya have equal but separate jurisdiction.”
He fears the AG in Putrajaya will play football with the Peer Mohd investigation papers as done with the Judge Nazlan case.
Borneo rights may or may not be debated. Many political parties just pay lipservice to Borneo rights in their Manifesto for GE15. It’s an issue recycled whenever elections come.
Electoral integrity may be another issue the Debaters may avoid. Electoral integrity isn’t about voter fraud and electoral fraud. In law, no election is free of fraud. It matters in Election Court that the extent of fraud did not affect outcome.
Electoral integrity ensures that there’s no gerrymandering — read pre-election rigging — of constituencies. The “one man, one vote” principle in democratic societies must be upheld. There has allegedly been widespread gerrymandering of electoral seats in Malaysia, tiny rural seats being given excess weightage compared with large urban seats.
In the absence of one to one contests in Malaysia, the First Past the Post System (FPtPS) fell on undemocratic soil. Winners in a crowded field get less than 51 per cent of the votes counted. No runoff are held between the top two contenders. Such results cannot be perfected in law. There’s no consent of the governed, no legitimacy, no democracy and loss of sovereignty.
Sarawak, for example, may be a unique case in Malaysia on sovereignty. It’s the duty of the international community, under international law, to restore sovereignty to a people who have lost it. The people of Sarawak have lost their sovereignty to a small group of proxies in power since 1966 when the Federal government removed Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningkan by Emergency decree. The government in Sarawak has never changed since Ningkan. The great majority of election results in Sarawak cannot be perfected in law i.e. winners get less than 51 per cent of the votes counted.
Sarawak has bearing on GE15 for electoral integrity since those in the fray have made the field crowded. Except for nine parliamentary seats, for example, it’s an extremely competitive affair in the rest of the 222 seats in Parliament. Many states have also dissolved their legislatures for election on Sat 19 Nov 2022.
If Debaters don’t discuss electoral integrity in GE15, they will gloss over the emerging reality that the winners in the majority of seats will not come in with at least 51 per cent of the votes counted. Losers should demand on Sat 19 Nov 2022 that the Election Commission (EC) hold runoffs in seats where no one obtained 51 per cent of the votes counted. The EC has prerogative and discretionary powers on holding runoff. There’s no need for law on runoff.
In the snap Johor polls last Dec, for example, Barisan Nasional (BN) won only 23 seats in the 56 seat state assembly. The BN formed the state government when it was declared the winner in another 17 seats, without runoff, despite not collecting at least 51 per cent of the votes counted. The EC fell back on the FPtPS.
It remains to be seen whether Johor would be the template for GE15. In that case, in the absence of runoff, many election results cannot be perfected in law for legitimacy, democracy and sovereignty. Surely, this phenomenon should trouble the people, coming on top of the allegedly widespread gerrymandering of seats and disenfranchisement of communities.
There are no local Indian and Orang Asli seats for example. Ironically, before automatic registration came in, local Indian decided the winners in 67 parliamentary seats in Malaya.
In Borneo, despite being the largest community at over 50 per cent, the Orang Asal don’t have even half the seats in the Sabah and Sarawak Assemblies. They also have less than half the 57 parliamentary seats in Borneo including Labuan. The Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA’63) stipulates that the Borneo Territories must have veto power in the Malaysian Parliament i.e. one third of the seats plus one. That works out to 75 seats in the current 222-seat Parliament.
Statelessness continues to plague the Orang Asal in Sabah and Sarawak and affect their numbers in the electoral rolls.
In adding insult to injury, Projek IC Mahathir in Sabah allegedly padded the electoral rolls with PTI given late registration birth certificates, although born — like Peer Mohd — outside Sabah.
The #Undi18 won’t vote as their elders do.
Children generally don’t like to emulate their parents and grandparents. They think the old ways have failed. If the young persuade the old to change their vote, GE15 will not be based on race and religion but issues that matter to All. The young know that harping on race and religion only benefits a few leaders.
GE15 may turn up many surprises and the most number of upsets because of #Undi18 and automatic registration. Independents may win some seats in Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya. Some state governments may change hands. I stand corrected.
Lessons from America
Again, America which already has runoff, provides useful lessons on electoral integrity and the pandemic which damaged Malaysia’s economy for no rhyme or reason. Although election results have to be certified by the state secretary, they can be decertified by order of the state supreme court anytime before the next election, if new evidence affects outcome.
The electoral integrity issue continues to play out in the ongoing US midterm elections. Already, Republican states have passed laws since 2021 to ensure electoral integrity — read as keeping undocumented people out — in US elections. The US Supreme Court ruled, in the wake of US 2020 on Nov 3, that “all votes must be counted”. The US Supreme Court left the conduct of elections to the state senate and state supreme court.
Trump has made electoral integrity an issue. He’s the first President to do so. He’s also the first President to make rightwing Christian nationalism an electoral issue. There are shades of Narendra Modi’s rightwing Hindu nationalism here.
All nationalism are defined by what they oppose. Christian nationalism may be a violation of the secular basis — separation of Church and state — of the US Constitution. The US Constitution enshrines freedom of conscience and freedom of association, among others.
Trump lost the US 2020 presidential election after the pandemic, brought by Covid-19 symptoms, saw the US economy heading south. Malaysia should note that Trump had it right when he resisted lockdowns. He said “the cure cannot be worse than the disease”. Unfortunately, he could not resist the pressure from his own 30-odd Republican Governors, and caved in.
Trump attributes his loss in 2020 to the lack of electoral integrity and not the economy taking a nose-dive during the pandemic. This is probably partly true. It appears that there was lack of electoral integrity in US 2020. – NMH
About the writer: Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez keeps a keen eye on Malaysia as a legal scholar (jurist). He was formerly Chief Editor of Sabah Times. He is not to be mistaken for a namesake previously with Daily Express. References to his blog articles can be found here.
The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.