By Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
Of late, so many important personalities are warning Malaysians to avoid having a snap election at the national level at all cost.
The looming Budget 2021 vote has produced the narrative by certain quarters that the country will plunge into total chaos if the Budget is not passed. Really..ah?
Then there is the health director-general who, once the darling savior of the people, now sounds like a PN's MP, saying please let's not have a snap election as there would be absolute catastrophe in dealing with the COVID-19.
Well, I am sorry DG, but many are saying your inept attitude in controlling the Sabah election fiasco with no enforcement whatsoever does not sit well with the voters.
Furthermore, your inaction in handling political masters in not quarantining themselves and letting them off scot free also does not sit pretty in your record.
The Sabah fiasco, to me, was not just the result of poor enforcement and control by those responsible, but the election commission operating in a traditional ceramah mode construct is also to be blamed.
There could have been so many new ways of handling the election but as a citizen, I am absolutely stunned by the inept way that it was handled. Different times call for different ways but the EC seems too set in their ways and thinking. So the combination of weak control by the authorities and the old mindset of the EC caused the COVID-19 flare up that has seen our frontliners stressed to their human limits.
Now, the heath DG has the nerve to 'advise' Malaysians about election. Please stick to your own job of helping the frontliners and getting more able bodied aid from the federal level. The election is the people's business as we are the owners of this country. Civil servants please stay out.
As an ordinary citizen who has participated fully in the election, there seems to be three simple elements to its process from the view of the voters.
The first is getting information about the candidates and their promises.
In pre-COVID times, opposition parties had to rely on the ceramah circuit. When I first attended a ceramah during the Anwar saga of Reformasi, I went to padang after padang, parking lot after parking lot and dragged my children to outdoor ceramah picnics.
I asked my friend why we must have this ceramah in the middle of a wet padang? He said the opposition candidates were not allowed on TV and not allowed to use public facilities.
I asked him whether RTM and the dewan serbaguna belonged to BN or to the people. Of course-lah to the people!
So, that is the first thing the EC chairman must do. Make sure every single candidate for federal and state seats has EQUAL access to public-owned dewans, Radio and TV. Susah sangat kah nak fikir this idea?
We are matured people who have lived beyond the childish pranks of BN and hope to see no more of this ridiculous idea that communication and assembly facilities 'belong' to the party in power.
Enough is enough. Then, we have YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms for all candidates to use creatively on their own. No need this perang poster nonsense. Waste of money and also defacing our beautiful trees.
If pak cik and mak cik cannot have access to TV, radio or smartphones on the candidates, perhaps they should not come to vote in the first place. Anyway, runners and agents can be sent out with papers of the candidates proclaiming their promises and containing their faces. No ceramahs or meetings allowed.
NGOs and academia in public and private universities must step up by organizing debates and talks via Zoom and other platforms so that the candidates can answer directly the voters' questions. If any voter has no interest to attend one or two simple Zoom platforms, perhaps he or she should also join the pak cik and mak cik not to come to vote.
Voting is a conscious, intelligent and important duty of a citizen as owner of Malaysia. You must be intelligent, able to read and are concerned enough to cast your ballot.
Next is the timing for the voters to come out to vote. By extending voting to 24 hours, voters can be tasked to come only within their designated periods. If they fail to turn up, then they cannot vote. No two ways about it. In this manner, we avoid crowds of people coming at popular times and waiting hours to vote, standing close to one another.
So, if the EC says my wife and I have to cast our votes between 11 pm and 2 am, rest assured we will turn up. No issue.
If EC says this is too expansive as it requires more manpower, we can get volunteers. Anyway, there are 450,000 teachers who can help at polling centers at schools. I don't see any logistic problem.
Anyway, cost should not be a factor as this most important day for the owners of this country. It is the day of our reckoning with those frog-hopping MPs and their arrogant statements blaming voters for choosing PH.
The EC must also set up polling centers where outstation voters are disallowed to go home to their voting places. Thousands of Sabahans were deprived of their fundamental rights just because the EC had an outdated mindset that postal votes are only for the armed forces and government workers.
I saw how France had polling centers in London for their citizens to vote. Susah sangatkah nak buat? Atau sengaja tak nak buat?
One million Malaysians overseas can make a huge difference and if they cannot return then the EC must cater to their needs.
The EC must remember that it is only a machinery, not a feudal lord. The EC must remember that it is a 'hamba rakyat', not 'tuan kepada rakyat'.
The EC is just a 'glorified clerk'. I hate to use these seemingly derogatory terms but I am frustrated when civil servants think they are the owners of this land, instead of the rakyat.
Thus, please don't be afraid of the election by fear-mongers. These fear-mongers are the ones to lose their shirts if the rakyat vote in a government that would streamline the civil service into efficiency and not mere entitlements.
If I could press a button that would sack all 222 MPs, I would do so now without hesitation. But there is no such button and we can do so only if we are allowed an election.
New Zealand had its election without serious consequences on the spread of the virus. We are already a matured nation. We do not need the health DG, politicians, PM or anybody to tell us when we should or should not have an election.
(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)