Book Review – PKFZ: A Nation’s Trust Betrayed
Which is the biggest financial scandal in Malaysian history, someone recently asked me. Without hesitation, I replied, Port Klang Free Zone or PKFZ. This scandal could potentially end up costing the Malaysian taxpayer RM12.5 billion according to the PWC position review report. In real terms, the financial losses associated with PKFZ may be slightly less than the BMF scandal (RM2.5b in 1983), the Maminco scandal (RM1.6b, 1980s) and Perwaja (RM10b in accumulated losses, 1990s) but none of these scandals can challenge PKFZ in terms of financial creativity and the number of high profile politicians involved.
The breadth and scope of this scandal is revealed in all its ‘glory’ in former Port Klang Authority (PKA) chairman and Subang Jaya state assemblyman Dato’ Lee Hwa Beng’s book – PKFZ: A Nation’s Trust Betrayed, written with former journalist Lee Siew Lian.
The contribution of this book can be found in four areas.
Firstly, it provides an insider’s account of what caused this seemingly well conceived project – to replicate the success of the Jebel Ali Free Zone in Dubai – to turn into the financial fiasco we now known as PKFZ. As the former PKA chairman brought in to clean up the mess, as a professional accountant and as a former politician, Lee knew where to look for the skeletons in the cupboard, so to speak. And with access to the full reports involving this case, he knows exactly what pertinent information needs to be recorded for the sake of posterity including details on key events and personalities.
Secondly, with the able help of his co-author, Lee Siew Lian, Lee is able to piece together all the relevant information in a manner that is relatively easy to understand, especially given the complexity of this case. Here, the various timelines associated with the complicated land sale, firstly from the UMNO controlled Koperasi Pembagunan Pulau Lumut Bhd (KPPLB) to Kuala Dimensi Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB), then controlled by Bintulu MP, Tiong King Sing, and then from KDSB to PKA, are particularly useful as are the timelines associated with the letters of support issued by former transport Ministers, Tun Ling Liong Sik and Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy in conjunction with the signing of the agreements and issuing of bonds at various stages to build the PKFZ infrastructure with KDSB.
The timelines, together with the financial information highlighted, reveal how PKA was seemingly ‘duped’ not just once or twice but many times by KDSB. PKA not only paid above market rates for the PKFZ land but was also charged above market interest rates for the deferred payments.
PKA was further ‘duped’ into paying for the development of the whole parcel of land in a single stage rather than the more financially prudent option of developing the project in stages. Time and time again, KDSB, the party who sold the PKFZ land to PKA, was appointed as the main contractor for an ever expanding scope of development work, without any open tenders. PKA would end up owing KDSB RM4.9 billion, which includes the land as well as development costs, almost 5 times more than the estimated RM1 billion debt level that was deemed sustainable for PKA.
Thirdly, this book is instrumental in highlighting the exact roles and degree of responsibility of the key players in this grand saga. Given that PKA came under the MCA controlled Ministry of Transportation, it was not surprising that many MCA leaders were named. I was particularly intrigued by episodes documenting Tun Ling’s insistence on buying the land from KDSB instead of the cheaper option of the Federal Government acquiring that piece of land, which was also the preferred option of the Ministry of Finance.
Other than the two former Ministers of Transportation who are being charged in court, the potential conflict of interest involving Dato’ Chor Chee Heung, the current Minister of Housing and Local Government, who was both PKA chairman as well as a non-independent director of KDSB’s sister company, Wijaya, for a period of 4 months was also highlighted.
The potential conflict of interest involving the then speaker of the Selangor state assembly, Dato’ Onn Ismail in holding the post of chairman of KPPLB while he was the speaker as well as that of Sementa assemblyman, Dato’ Rahman Pahlil, who took over as the chairman of KPPLB and was later appointed as a PKA director are also highlighted.
Not all of the names mentioned in this book played negative roles. The support which was given to Lee by former MCA president and Minister of Transportation, Dato’ Seri Ong Tee Keat, despite the pressure put on Ong by the cabinet, was emphasized at various junctures in the book. Lee also credited four DAP politicians – Lim Kit Siang, Ronnie Liu, Teng Chang Kim and Tony Pua – for the roles they played in highlighting the improprieties associated with this case at different points in time.
Perhaps more important than all the information revealed is the fact that there are still many issues left to be resolved, which is this book’s fourth contribution. For example, the contents of the Skrine Task Force report to turn around PKFZ, which was given to Prime Minister Najib, has not been publicly revealed. The Special Task Force on this scandal, headed by the Chief Secretary to the government, has had no public announcements since its formation in 2009. PKA continues to pay KDSB so that it can pay its bondholders despite the fact that there are outstanding lawsuits by PKA taken out against KDSB. There are also recent allegations that PKA has decided to drop these lawsuits against KDSB as well as its decision to withdraw a complaint made against Rashid Asari & Co to the Bar Council, over potential conflict of interest in the legal firm’s role in acting for both KDSB as well as PKA in the PKFZ land sale. The publication of this book comes at an appropriate time, given that interest in this scandal seemed to have waned as public attention has moved elsewhere. It is a timely reminder that the taxpayer is still on the hook for the mounting losses of PKA and that many of those involved in this case have yet to be charged or convicted.
If I had any criticism of this book it would be the fact that it badly needs a list of references as well as proper labelling of the various timelines and shareholding arrangements. It would make it much easier for researchers and even the casual reader to find the relevant information after the first reading of what is a forensic and creative accounting page turner.
I have no doubt that there is other relevant information which Lee has access to which he still has not revealed, perhaps to avoid getting sued and also because of the on-going trials of Ling and Chan. I would be the first in line if he is ever to publish a follow up book revealing new information on this scandal that threatens to be the biggest in Malaysian history. In the meantime, I recommend all taxpayers, current and future, to read about how part of your hard earned tax dollars is being spent.
* Ong Kian Ming holds a PhD in political science from Duke University. He is currently a lecturer and political scientist at UCSI University.
EC has not been honest in its rebuttals
Bersih 3.0 may have been a success in terms of its ability to attract more than 100,000 Malaysians from all walks of life to come out in support of clean and fair elections but the hard work of ensuring that this aspiration is translated into reality needs to continue.
All the more so when the Election Commission continues to ignore the many problems highlighted by the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (Merap) with regard to the electoral roll.
The EC has recently published a booklet with 12 points of rebuttal against allegations that the electoral roll is full of problematic registrations and that the EC has been complicit in not cleaning up the electoral roll.
In this article, I want to highlight two of the rebuttals to illustrate that the EC has not been honest in its responses which reflects its inconsistent policies in managing the electoral roll and electoral boundaries.
EC’s boundary ‘correction’ exercise
One of the EC’s rebuttals is that it has not redrawn any electoral boundaries since such an exercise would require parliamentary approval. What the EC has been doing instead, is to correct previous errors of putting voters in certain localities in the wrong parliamentary and state constituency.
This was done after the introduction of a new Electoral Geographic Information System (Egis) in 2004. The EC used the power given to the chief registrar under the Section 25(3) of the Elections (Regulation of Electors) Regulations 2002 where it is state that:
“Where an error has resulted in any person being registered as an elector of a registration area which is not a registration area in respect of which that person should have been registered, the Chief Registrar may enter that person’s name in the principal electoral roll or the supplementary electoral roll for the appropriate registration area.”
This was the reason given for why Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s voting area was shifted from Petaling Jaya Selatan (P105) to Lembah Pantai (P121) – Section 16/2 is part of Wilayah Persekutuan rather than Petaling Jaya.
The ‘correction of boundaries’ according to the EC has affected 19,342 voters in the whole country.
I have three concerns with regard to the EC’s rebuttal on this point.
Firstly, if the Egis system was introduced in 2004 after the 2003 delimitation exercise, why were these corrections not done until long after the 2008 general elections?
The following is the EC’s statement in Bahasa Malaysia with regard to the introduction of the Egis system:
“SPR menyedari kedudukan beberapa lokaliti yang tersalah letak di dalam bahagian pilihan raya hanya selepas Sistem Egis (Electoral Geographical Information System) digunapakai dalam tahun 2004.”
And again, when referring to the correction to the Section 16/2 locality and shifting it from PJ Selatan to Lembah Pantai:
“Apabila sistem Egis (Electoral Geographical Information System) dilaksanakan pada tahun 2004, SPR mula menyedari kesilapan penentuan kedudukan lokaliti berkenaan.”
The fact that the EC only choose to make these boundary ‘corrections’ more than four years (after the 2008 general election) after the introduction of Egis is very troubling and concerning.
Affected voters not informed
Secondly, what is more troubling is the fact that the EC did not notify the 19,342 voters which were affected by this exercise. They only wrote to the political areas in the areas which were affected.
Again, this raises concerns in regard to the intent of the EC to keep voters informed about their respective voting constituencies. Is it the responsibility of the politicians or is it the responsibility of the EC to keep voters informed of the changes made?
Most reasonable people would argue that the EC has the obligation to inform voters when they have been shifted from one voting constituency to another since this means that their political representative at the state (for the non-Federal Territories voters) and at the parliamentary levels have been changed.
The EC has since stated that it would send letters to each of these voters to inform them of these changes before the next general election. We hope that these letters will be sent in a timely fashion and that all of these affected voters will be duly notified.
Thirdly, the EC has not been consistent and transparent in this boundary ‘correction’ exercise.
When they informed political representatives that localities have been shifted in and/or out of their respective constituencies, they failed to provide updated maps of the newly configured constituencies showing exactly where the new localities are placed.
This lack of transparency points to the possibility that the EC has not been transparent in terms of the standards used for these boundary ‘correction’ exercises.
I shall firstly illustrate one case involving the movement of localities which does not make sense according to pre-existing electoral boundaries in the state seats of Seri Setia (Kelana Jaya parliament) and Kota Damansara (Subang).
Map 1 below highlights one of the areas affected by this boundary ‘correction’ exercise in the state seat of Seri Setia (N32).
Map 2 below highlights the localities which have been transferred from Seri Setia to Kota Damansara (N39).
The electoral boundary of Seri Setia is demarcated by the major highways highlighted in red. This is the pre-existing boundary which was used in the 2004 and 2008 general elections.
What is perplexing is that Saujana Resort, which lies on the southern side of the old Subang airport road (highlighted in red at the top of the map) has now been shifted to Kota Damansara, which lies on the northern side of the old Subang airport road.
I fail to see why Egis would show that this locality should be shifted to another constituency when it clearly falls within the boundary of the Seri Setia state seat.
What is also perplexing is that two localities that are to the east of the Jalan Monfort highway boundary (highlighted in red at the left of the map) – Pusat Bekalan Polis Shah Alam and Pangsapuri Melewar – have also been shifted to Kota Damansara.
If the EC had shifted these two localities to Kota Anggerik (N40), it could have at least been more defensible. It does not make sense for these two localities to be moved up to Kota Damansara when the Taman Glenmarie locality, which is closer to the Kota Damansara seat, remains in Seri Setia.
This is just one example of how the boundary ‘correction’ exercise done by the EC does not seem to be using consistent and transparent standards which includes using natural boundaries like rivers and other man-made boundaries such as major roads to demarcate constituencies.
Another example which shows the EC inconsistency in adopting a consistent set of standards in its boundary ‘correction’ exercise is the inclusion of a locality in Bukit Jalil, which should be under the Bandar Tun Razak parliamentary seat, not the Lembah Pantai parliamentary seat.
A new locality called POLIS (Pusat Tahanan Sementara Bukit Jalil – Kod Lokaliti: 1210017701) was created in 2011. As its name indicates, this police holding facility is located in Bukit Jalil.
But the almost 500 police postal voters in this locality were allocated to the Lembah Pantai parliamentary constituency, a marginal constituency which is likely to be contested by Federal Territories Minister Raja Nong Chik.
The EC would be hard pressed to explain why its boundary ‘correction’ exercise failed to put this locality into the Bandar Tun Razak parliamentary constituency, especially since it falls outside the current boundaries of the Lembah Paintai parliamentary seat.
To ensure that this boundary ‘correction’ exercise is not a stealth delimitation exercise, the EC should publish maps of the areas affected indicating clearly the localities which have been shifted as well as why they have been shifted.
42,051 doubtful voters in electoral roll
After initially promising to erase 42,051 voters whose information and status was not clear according to the National Registration Department (NRD) records, the EC retracted on this and said that they had no right to remove these names even though Section 25 2(g) of the Elections (Regulation of Electors) Regulations 2002 states that the chief registrar may “strik(e) out the name of any person who, in the opinion of the Chief Registrar, is not entitled, for any reason, to remain or be in the principal electoral roll or the supplementary roll”.
This figure was later revised downwards by 1,248 voters to 40,803 when these names publicly displayed and the NRD was able to update their records accordingly.
However, the EC has failed to account for why 14,577 names were deleted in the Quarter 2 2011 because their records were not active in NRD – “rekod tidak aktif di JPN (NRD)”. Not that these names were not deleted because the voters in question had died – that figure was reported in a separate category.
Hence, if in one quarter, the names of almost 15,000 voters were deleted because their NRD records were not active, why was it the case that over 42,000 voters whose status was not identifiable by the NRD in another quarter not dealt with in the same manner?
Again, this calls into question the EC’s consistency in applying the same standards for the same cases.
What is also disconcerting is the fact that a very high percentage of the voters among the 42,051 not deleted as well as the 14,577 deleted voters were very old voters. For example, 13,183 or 90.4 percent of the 14,577 deleted voters were over the age of 70. Similarly, 33,421 or 79.5 percent of the 42,051 not deleted voters were above the age of 70.
It also raises questions about the utility of publicly displaying these records when most of the voters among the 42,051 are probably not very mobile and would not be able to ‘verify’ the fact that they are still very much alive. And if they are dead and do not have family who happen upon this list, then there is no way that their names can be removed from the electoral roll.
It would be much more effective for the EC to form investigative teams, together with NRD, to try to track down as many of these voters as possible instead of just relying on public displays and relying on politicians and political parties to track down these voters.
As long as the EC is not pro-active in ‘going to the ground’, the list of ‘dubious’ voters, including those who are aged over 100 years old, will continue to populate the electoral roll. The identity of these voters can easily be used by irresponsible parties to cast a vote.
Dr ONG KIAN MING is project director of the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (Merap).
This article was published by Malaysiakini.
Electoral roll: What else is the EC hiding?
In two previous articles, I highlighted 10 problems associated with the electoral roll as part of the preliminary findings of the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (Merap), a research effort to identify and understand problems with the existing electoral roll.
Firstly, approximately 3.1 million voters were identified as potential non-resident voters by the National Registration Department (NRD) in 2002. This data was given by NRD to the Election Commission (EC) but no action was taken by the EC to assess the magnitude of this problem and to identify ways to rectify it.
Secondly, using the EC’s own data which lists the nationality or ‘bangsa’ of each voter, approximately 65,000 voters were identified as having foreign nationalities. Of these, close to 90 percent or 58,000 had IC numbers which indicate that they were born in Malaysia.
In addition, approximately 49,000 of these voters came from one state alone – Sabah – which has a well-documented history where ICs were given to illegal immigrants in order to allow them to register as voters.
Thirdly, by comparing the electoral rolls in Quarter 4 (Q4) 2010 and Quarter 3 (Q3) 2011 and by cross-checking them with the quarterly updates in the first to third quarters in 2011, it was found that there were 106,743 voters removed from the electoral roll without public display and another 6,762 voters added to the electoral roll during the same period, also without public display.
Fourthly, important information provided by the EC in the Q1 to Q3 2011 quarterly roll updates such as the reasons for the deletion of names from the electoral roll were omitted in the Q4 2011 quarterly roll. This omission immediately raises concerns about the possibility of concealing important information by the EC in order to prevent detailed analysis from being conducted.
Adding the figures which I found from the initial preliminary analysis to the figures highlighted in this article, I have identified approximately 3.4 million cases where further investigation needs to be conducted by the EC in order to verify the legitimacy of these voters because this is the pool of problematic registrations that currently tars the integrity and accuracy of the electoral roll.
1) 3.1 million potential non-resident voters
In 2002, the information systems section of the NRD (Bahagian Perkhidmatan Sistem Maklumat) conducted an exercise called Projek SPR where the IC addresses of all voters in Peninsular Malaysia were compared with the voting constituencies of these voters.
The main purpose behind this project was to identify all the voters whose IC addresses did not correspond to the constituencies that these voters were registered in.
For example, if a person’s IC address was somewhere in Bukit Gasing in Petaling Jaya, which is located in the PJ Selatan parliamentary constituency but if this person is registered as a voter in the Shah Alam parliamentary constituency, then this voter would be classified as a potential non-resident voter (pengundi luar kawasan).
A total of 3,082,482 million voters were identified as potential non-resident voters, meaning that their IC addresses did not correspond with their voting constituencies. This constituted 37 perrcent of the then 8.3 million voters in Peninsular Malaysia in 2002.
Of course, not all of these 3.1 million voters are non-resident voters. For example, a person’s IC address may be that of his parent’s home in Bukit Gasing, but he may be currently residing in a house in Shah Alam and registered as a voter in that constituency.
Article 119 (1) of the Federal Constitution states that “Every citizen who (a) has attained the age of twenty-one years on the qualifying date; and (b) is resident in a constituency on such qualifying date or, if not so resident, is an absent voter, is entitled to vote in that constituency in any election to the House of Representatives or the Legislative Assembly…”
This means that only those who are residents in a particular constituency when they register as voters are qualified to vote in that particular constituency.
The presence of such a large number of voters whose IC addresses do not correspond with their voting constituencies clearly shows that the problem of non-resident voters is a serious one, even if only a small proportion of these 3.1 million voters were not residents in these constituencies at the time of their registration.
The possibility of these voters not being resident voters is further enhanced when one considers the lax standards required before 2002 in order to ‘qualify’ as a resident of a constituency. All someone needed to do prior to 2002 was to show some sort of proof that he was a resident in a particular area – an electricity or phone bill for example.
A number of politicians whom I interviewed on an informal basis told me that the requirement for this proof of residency was often waived. This meant that many strategic politicians could pad their respective constituencies with supporters, friends and family, even though they did not live in that constituency.
One manifestation of this voter padding exercise is the presence of houses with a large number of registered voters.
According to analysis done by Mimos (Malaysian Institute Of Microelectronic Systems), as instructed by the parliamentary select committee on Electoral Reform, 938 houses with between 51 and 100 registered voters each and 523 houses with more than 100 registered voters were identified in the most recent electoral roll.
If we include the 2,071 houses with between 21 and 50 registered voters each and the 3,949 houses with between 11 and 20 registered voters, there are approximately 260,000 voters who are registered in houses with 11 or more registered voters.
And this excludes localities with no house addresses (kampung or longhouses, for example). This is a legacy system left behind by the pre-2002 electoral roll where non-resident voters were registered in addresses that they did not live in.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this NRD analysis is that the EC, as far as we know, made no effort to identify the magnitude of this problem – how many of these voters were actually non-resident voters – nor did the EC seem to take any measure in order to rectify this problem in the pre-2002 electoral roll.
2) 65,000 ‘foreigners’ in the electoral roll
The EC collects comprehensive data on the ‘bangsa’ or nationality of individual voters. This data is not distributed to political parties, not officially at least, but contains valuable information that can be used to identify problematic registrations.
Table 2 below lists the nationalities which I classified as ‘foreign’. I then extracted all the voters from the Q3 2011 electoral roll which were categorised as belonging to either one of these nationalities or ‘bangsa’.
I identified approximately 65,000 ‘foreigners’ on the Q3 2011 electoral roll using this list of ‘foreign’ nationalities. Out of these 65,000 voters, I found that approximately 58,000 or 90 percent had IC numbers which indicated that they were born in one of the states in Malaysia.
This was quite unexpected, since I presumed that most of these foreigners would have IC numbers which would indicate that they were born outside Malaysia rather than in Malaysia.
After all, if we met 10 random ‘Italians’ who are Malaysian citizens, wouldn’t we expect most of them to be born outside Malaysia and subsequently became naturalised Malaysian citizens? Instead, we find the opposite phenomenon, whereby a majority of these foreign voters are born in Malaysia instead.
More worrying is the fact that approximately 49,000 voters out of 65,000 are foreign voters, or 75 percent, and they are in Sabah, where cases of illegal immigrants being given Malaysian ICs has been well-documented.
Out of these 49,000 foreigners in Sabah, almost 48,000 or 97 percent are ‘Malaysian born’.
Table 3 below shows the distribution of these 65,000 foreigners by state and the number and percentage of these voters with IC numbers that indicate that they were born in Malaysia.
Armed with this kind of information, the EC can easily do an audit of these foreign voters in Sabah, perhaps in cooperation with NRD, to verify if their identities are indeed legitimate and that they are resident voters. As it is, the presence of these voters and the high percentage of them who are Malaysian-born certainly raise serious concerns.
3) Mysterious deletions and additions
In every quarterly update of the electoral roll (Rang Daftar Pemilih Tambahan, or RDPT), the names of those who are newly registered voters, those who have changed their addresses and those whose names have been deleted from the electoral roll in a constituency have to be publicly displayed in a location within that constituency, usually in a government building.
The number of voters who have been added and deleted from the gazetted electoral roll before and after this public display and after the possible objections to the inclusion and the exclusion of some names must add up.
For example, if the gazetted roll had 10,000 voters before the quarterly update, during which 1,000 voters were added and 500 voters were deleted, the gazetted roll after public display should contain 10,500 voters.
My team of researchers compared the number of voters in the Q4 2010 with the Q3 2011 electoral roll and cross checked the numbers with the Q1, Q2 and Q3 2011 electoral roll updates. What we found was that 106,743 voters in the Q4 2010 electoral roll no longer appeared in the Q3 2011 electoral roll and also did not appear in the Q1 to Q3 2011 electoral updates as deleted voters.
This means that they were deleted from the electoral roll without public display. In addition, we found that 6,762 new voters were found in the Q3 2011 electoral roll but these new voters did not appear in any of the quarterly updates in 2011, meaning that these voters were added without public display!
The presence of such a high number of cases of additions and deletions without public display raises doubts as to whether these voters were removed or added under suspicious circumstances. It also raises questions about the number of voters that were removed/added without public display in the quarters prior to 2011.
4) Information on deletion of voters missing
The data given by the EC to the political parties for the Q1 to Q3 2011 quarterly updates had detailed information with regard to the reasons as to why a voter was deleted from the electoral roll.
These reasons include: death, change of address, having joined the police or army, losing one’s citizenship, losing the status of being a postal voter and doubtful identities, just to name a few.
Tables 4 to 6 below show the number of voters added and deleted and the reasons for these deletions for the Q1 to Q3 2011 electoral roll updates.
But all of a sudden, the reasons as to why voters were deleted from the electoral roll were no longer included in the Q4 2011 electoral roll update.
What is more shocking is no voter was listed as being deleted as a result of death. The only data given is the number of voters who were deleted from the Q4 2011 electoral roll as a result of a change in address.
The summary of the Q4 2011 electoral roll update are given in Table 7 below.
One cannot help but wonder if the EC wanted to exclude the voters who had been deleted from the electoral roll because of the intense scrutiny given to the earlier Q1 to Q3 2011 electoral roll updates.
For example, the 42,051 voters whose identity was questionable because of their details could not be verified in the NRD database was revealed in the Q3 2011 update (highlighted in yellow in Table 6 above).
In addition, the sudden increase in the number of deletions in Q3 2011 because of voters entering into the army/police force (highlighted in blue in Table 6 above) also may have drawn unwanted attention as to where these new army/police postal voters were being transferred to.
In-depth audit of electoral roll needed
The data shown in this article raises many concerns about the EC’s desire to ensure a clean, accurate and transparent electoral roll.
The EC has clearly failed to act on important data with regard to problematic registrations that were handed over to it by NRD back in 2002 – the 3.1 million potential non-resident voters – and also data that it collected on its own – the 65,000 foreign voters in the Q3 2011 electoral roll.
In addition, the EC seems to have concealed important data from public knowledge, such as the nationality or ‘bangsa’ of the individual voters, deleting and adding voters without public display and excluding the reasons why voters were deleted from the electoral roll.
The EC should conduct an in-depth audit of the electoral roll, including further investigations into selected samples, and then consider various solutions to these problems, including automatic registration of all voters according to their IC addresses.
With the presence of these problems in the electoral roll, it is clear that the EC chairman’s claim that Malaysia has world’s cleanest electoral roll is one that is not based on reality or facts.
ONG KIAN MING holds a PhD in Political Science from Duke University. He is a lecturer and political analyst at UCSI University. He is also the project director of the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (MERAP).
This article was published by Malaysiakini.
‘Dubious’ voters may decide GE13
In the first part of this article, I highlighted five problems with the electoral roll which were not addressed in the report by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reform.
In this second part, I will highlight five additional problems with the electoral roll, all of which concern the highly problematic area of postal voting among army and police personnel.
5. Postal voters who are registered using their regular ICs
Army personnel, who are postal voters, have IC addresses beginning with T. Police personnel, who are postal voters, have IC addressing beginning with R, G and I.
If any of these army or police voters were previously registered as voters using their civilian IC numbers, their civilian registration entries should be deleted from the electoral roll.
While this process may have taken place for most of these postal voters, the possibility that these voters appear twice on the electoral roll cannot be discounted. This possibility was not investigated by the PSC on Electoral Reform.
The analysis conducted by Mimos (Malaysian Institute Of Microelectronic Systems) on behalf of the PSC was only restricted to looking for voters who were registered under the same IC number.
Conducting this analysis requires massive amounts of computing power since the name and date of birth of each army and police postal voter has to be matched with the name and date of birth of every single entry in the electoral roll (currently numbering more than 12 million).
Even researchers, political parties and politicians who are interested in investigating the presence of this specific problem in the electoral roll would not have the capacity and know-how to conduct this analysis.
Table 3 below shows two examples of army voters who were also registered as voters using their civilian ICs. The civilian entries were deleted after their inclusion was referred to the Election Commission (EC).
This problem is not restricted to the presence of one person registering under his or her own civilian IC as well as his or her army/police IC.
It is also possible for the IC of army or police voter to be used by his or her spouse. If this occurs, it would be much harder to detect since it would not be the same name and date of birth registered under two ICs – one army/police and the other civilian.
If the spouse is registered twice, one using his or her own IC, and once using the civilian IC of his or her army/policy spouse, then the same name would appear twice but having to different dates of birth.
Of course, one way to detect this is to check for the mistake in the gender indicated by the IC and the gender of the voter as indicated by the EC records.
The screenshot below shows one such example of a wife who are registered as a voter using the IC number of the husband. The name of the voter is female as is their gender identity in the EC records but her IC number ends with an odd number which indicates that the holder of the IC is male.
When the IC number was inputted into the MyEG (Malaysian E-Government) website, the name of the male postal voters appeared.
After a total of 42 cases were discovered across five parliament seats in Negeri Sembilan (Seremban, Rasah, Telok Kemang, Rembau and Tampin) in Q2 (Quarter 2) of 2011, the EC was obliged to delete these names.
This was a very time-consuming task since the civilian IC addresses of the postal voters in question had to be ‘tracked down’ using other databases (since they are not given in the EC website). In this particular instance, the MyEG database was used because NRD (National Registration Department) no longer allows open access to their website to check for the validity of ICs.
If one’s wife could be allowed to register using the husband’s IC which has a different name, one wonders if another person could register using any police/army postal voter’s civilian IC address?
Again, this possibility was not addressed in the PSC report. There are currently more than 200,000 army and police postal voters. To ensure that their civilian ICs are not being used by other people, a thorough investigation needs to be conducted using the civilian IC numbers of these army/police postal voters.
6. Spouses of police who are registered as postal voters
According to section 2 of Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, spouses who qualifies to be registered as postal voters are as follows:
- Spouse of a serving member of regular naval, military or air force of Malaysia, the Commonwealth or other country;
- Spouse of a person in the public service of the Malaysian government or any state/local authority or statutory body who is living with the serving spouse outside the boundaries of Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah or Sarawak;
- Spouse of a person engaging in full-time studies at any university, training college or any higher educational institution outside the boundaries of Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah or Sarawak and who is living with the student at the time for application for registration as a parliamentary or state elector.
The spouse of a member of the police force is not eligible to be registered as postal voters.
But in our analysis of the postal voters in the June 2011, we found there were over 4,000 spouses of police voters who were registered as postal voters. Table 4 below shows a sample of spouses of police voters who are also registered as postal voters.
7. Spouses of army/police voters who are of the same gender
In this category, spouses of army/police who are of the same gender – i.e. same sex marriages – were identified.
For example, in the Setiawangsa June 2011 electoral roll, Harisah binti Ab Ghani (IC: 770130035668) was listed being married to Zaini binti Hamzah (IC: T1110543).
When Zaini binti Hamzah’s IC was searched in the EC website, it was found that she had now become Zain bin Hamzah/Lelaki and had been shifted to the Ketereh parliamentary constituency in Kelantan.
In the most recent check, Zain was switched back to Zaini binti Hamzah. Both Zaini and Harisah’s current voting constituency is unknown as both are listed as being ‘processed’ in the EC website.
8. Army and police voters who are above the retirement age
According to the army’s website, the retirement age for army personnel is 55 (maximum). For certain grades, it is lower than 55. For other civil servants, the mandatory retirement age is 58.
A limited search of the June 2011 electoral roll revealed over 44 names of police postal voters who were above the age of 58.
For example, Wan Rasidy bin Roni (IC: RF151304), born on Nov 19, 1900, which makes him 112 this year, is registered in Balai Polis Lumut in the Lumut parliamentary constituency.
9. New army and police postal voters who are above the recruitment age
The maximum entry age for army recruits is not more than 30 years of age.
However, an investigation into the voters who were cut from the electoral roll in Q3 2011 because they had joined the army showed more than 200 recruits who were more the maximum age of 30.
Of equal or perhaps greater concern is that these over-aged recruits, who changed their place of voting in the 3Q of 2011, were then moved to another constituency in 4Q 2011.
For example, Abu Talib bin Ahmad (IC: 690625086571), aged 42, was taken out of the 3Q 2011 electoral roll because he had joined the army. He was originally registered in the parliamentary district of Kuala Kangsar in Perak as a regular voter with a civilian IC address.
According to the 4Q 2011 supplementary electoral roll, this voter, who was then registered in the parliamentary constituency of Jeli in Kelantan, was then transferred to the parliamentary constituency of Ketereh as a postal voter.
In other words, in the space of six months, this voter, who was not only over 30 years of age, had also experienced two changes in his voting constituency from Kuala Kangsar to Jeli and from Jeli to Ketereh.
Abu Talib bin Ahamd, aged 42, was registered as a new army postal voter in 3Q 2011.
Examples such as these raise the possibility that over-aged voters have been illegally ‘recruited’ as army postal voters and then quickly transferred from one electoral constituency to another in successive quarters in order to ‘mask’ the origin of these suspicious army recruits.
In the Q4 2011 data, the EC no longer gave details of why voters were deleted from the electoral roll, which meant that voters who joined the army and police could no longer be detected. One wonders why EC altered the structure of the data released by quarter from 3Q 2011 to 4Q 2011.
How much difference will these ‘problematic’ voters make?
At the end of the day, one should ask the question of how many ‘problematic’ voters are in the electoral roll. The simple answer is that we really do not know.
The cases highlighted under these 10 categories number approximately 100,000. But even within these categories, an exhaustive analysis has not been conducted because of time and manpower limitations.
These problems could potentially be the tip of the iceberg. They do not include addresses with a large number of registered voters. They do not include the 42,000 voters whose IC numbers could not be found in the NRD database.
They do not include other categories such as the insertion and removal of registered voters who do not appear in any of the quarterly electoral roll updates. They do not include other categories of possible electoral manipulation which have not yet been analysed or investigated such as the registration of voters in non-existent addresses.
The inclusion of these categories could easily increase the number of problematic voters to 400,000 names or approximately 1,800 votes divided over 222 parliamentary constituencies.
Considering that 35 seats out of 222 were won or lost by less than 2,000 votes, these problematic voters can potentially affect the balance of power in the next general election.
History repeats itself?
If one does not think that the presence of these problematic voters is not sufficient to swing the overall election results, I point to two past precedents where sudden increases in the number of voters in the electoral roll in states which were lost by BN which probably helped win the BN win back these states.
The two states are Sabah after the 1990 elections and Terengganu after the 1999 elections. We see the same pattern being repeated in the state of Selangor leading up to the 13th general election.
The number of voters in Sabah increased by 17.6% from 1990 to 1995 compared to the national average of 13.0%. This was just after PBS left the BN coalition prior to the 1990 Sabah state elections. PBS controlled the Sabah state government from 1990 to 1994.
In the state of Terengganu, the number of voters increased by a whopping 17.7% from 1999 to 2004 compared to a national average of 7.3%. Again, it is noteworthy that the state of Terengganu had fallen to the opposition during the 1999 general elections.
In 1999, the opposition won 28 out of 32 state seats and all eight parliamentary seats. In 2004, after this massive increase in the number of voters, the opposition won only one parliamentary and four state seats, an almost total reverse of the 1999 general election results.
In Selangor, according to the Q4 2011 electoral roll, the number of voters has increased by over 340,000 to more than 1.9 million voters since the 2008 general election. This represents an increase of 21.8% compared to a national average of 16.3%.
Some of these increases have occurred in areas which limited increases in the number of new housing estates and population inflows.
For example, the seat of Hulu Selangor, a marginal parliamentary seat, saw an increase of more than 17,000 voters, or 27.1%, from the 2008 general election to the Q4 2011 electoral roll.
Finally, for those who use the fact that the opposition managed to win a historic number of parliamentary seats and control of five state governments in the 2008 general election to say that the electoral roll is relatively clean and accurate, one could easily respond by saying that the opposition could have won even more seats if the electoral roll did not include these problematic voters.
The upcoming 13th general election is expected to be one of the most closely contested electoral battles in our nation’s history. This increases the importance of having a relatively clean and transparent electoral roll to ensure that the results are a fair representation of the will of the electorate.
Without a strong commitment by the authorities, including the PSC on electoral reform, EC, NRD and the government of the day to firstly identify and then address these problems, the accuracy of the electoral roll cannot be ascertained with any degree of confidence.
ONG KIAN MING holds a PhD in political science from Duke University. He is currently a lecturer at UCSI University.
10 major problems in EC’s electoral roll
The Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform report, which was released earlier this week, highlights 22 recommendations on how to improve the electoral process.
I will not go through each and every recommendation or discuss the overall quality of these recommendations since others including the Bar Council chairperson and the Bersih steering committee have already done so.
What I will focus on in this two-part article is the many problems which are to be found in the electoral roll. To summarise, the report fails to acknowledge significant problems that have to do with the electoral roll, many of which are already well known, and seems to limit the scope of checking the accuracy of the electoral roll to a few not very useful parameters.
Section 10.6 of the report recommends that an independent agency such as Mimos (Malaysian Institute Of Microelectronic Systems), under the supervision of a newly-established PSC, be given the responsibility of checking the accuracy of the electoral roll.
Unfortunately the examples listed in Sections 10 and 11 of the report are not wide-ranging enough. For example, Mimos was given the task of checking to see if there are duplicate IC numbers in the electoral roll. Not surprisingly, this search failed to turn up any such entries.
Mimos only did a search for duplicate entries using the new IC (identity card) numbers and not the old IC numbers. Nor did Mimos did a search to see if the civilian IC numbers of army and police postal voters (who have their own unique army and police IC numbers) appear on the electoral roll.
As will be clear later in this article, these are but some of the methods in which the electoral roll can be manipulated and abused.
The only significant problem area identified in the report was the presence of addresses with more than 50 registered voters. There were 938 addresses with between 51 to 100 registered voters and another 324 with more than 100 registered voters.
For these cases, the report recommends that the Elections Commission (EC) display these names in public so that the voters in question can come forward to help EC clean up the electoral roll in these addresses.
The Merap project
Any electoral roll in any country will have its share of problems. Voters move and do not update their voting constituency. Voters who have died may not be taken off the electoral roll. Resourceful politicians often shift supporters into their own voting constituency.
These problems may be unintentional administrative errors or they may arise as a result of purposeful fraud. Both types of problems need to be addressed.
But systematically identifying and addressing these problems require a lot of resources not just in terms of time and personnel, but also in terms of computing power and knowledge.
The problems which will be highlighted in these two articles were uncovered as a result of an ongoing academic study called the ‘Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (Merap)’, whose purpose is to identify problems with the electoral roll and to make recommendations on how to deal with them.
These results took three part-time researchers approximately three months to compile. These findings are not exhaustive and are possibly only the tip of the iceberg of the underlying problems with the electoral roll.
A total of 10 problems with the electoral roll will be examined – five in this first part and another five in the second part.
The 10 problems are:
1) Voters who are above 85 years old.
2) Inconsistencies in the gender indicated by the IC number and EC data.
3) Voters with the same name, and some with the same/similar date of birth.
4) Voters who have IC addresses with the state of birth as ‘7x’, indicating that they are born overseas.
5) Voters in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur in the third quarter and fourth quarter of 2011 who do not have house addresses, even though other newly-registered voters in the same locality have house addresses.
6) Postal voters who are registered using their regular ICs.
7) Spouses of police who are registered as postal voters.
8) Spouses of army/police voters who are of the same gender.
9) Army and police voters who are above the retirement age.
10) New army and police postal voters who are above the recruitment age.
1. Voters who are above 85 years old
An analysis of the third quarter (3Q) of the 2011 electoral roll revealed 65,543 voters who were aged 85 and older. In addition, more than 1,000 voters were listed at 100 years old and above. 19 voters were born before 1900!
This is not to say that all of these voters are fraudulent voters that have been included in the electoral roll by irresponsible parties. Rather, the number of elderly voters is a good place to start in terms of identifying voters who may have died but for whatever reason, have not been deleted from the electoral roll.
This is an area of concern since the ICs of dead voters can be used by others to cast a vote on their behalf.
The oldest voter identified was Wong Kwan Moy (IC: 530823040010) who was listed as being born in 1853, which makes this person 149 years old in 2012.
This voter is registered in Setiawangsa in Kuala Lumpur. It is possible this could be typo and that the voter was born in 1953 rather than 1853 but this needs to be verified.
But this cannot be said of Tey Kim (IC: 900206740068) who was listed as being born in 1890. This cannot be a typo since voters who are born in the 1990s do not have old IC numbers, which this voter clearly does (K844769).
If Tey Kim was born in 1890 and she is still alive, she would be 122 this year.
The EC would probably respond by saying that they rely on the National Registration Department (NRD) to provide them with names of recently deceased people who then can be deleted from the electoral roll.
But there is nothing to prevent the EC from conducting their own periodic investigations on voters, especially those who are above 100 years old, to ensure that these voters are still alive and residing in their voting constituency.
2. Inconsistencies in the gender indicated by the IC number and EC data
An IC ending with an odd number means that the person is a male, while an IC ending with an even number means that the person is female.
An analysis of the 3Q 2011 electoral roll found 15,855 voters whose IC numbers indicate a different gender from that listed by EC.
Among these 15,855 voters, there were 72 “bin”(son of) who are listed as female and 76 “binti” (daughter of) who are listed as male.
For example, Mashitah binti Hashim (IC: 550901095040) was listed as a male while Ali bin Ariff (IC: 880726265197) was listed as a female.
These ‘gender inconsistencies’ point to the possibility that a person of a different gender could have used these ICs to register themselves as voters.
While these instances could be legitimate errors on the part of NRD, it makes sense to conduct more analysis, including field visits and discussions with NRD to ensure that these are merely clerical errors.
In addition, the presence of these sorts of inconsistencies also raises the question on whether polling agents can object to the identity of these voters on the basis that their listed gender differs from that indicated by the IC number.
These sorts of inconsistencies also highlights the need for NRD to get more involved in the process of clarifying these inconsistencies and discrepancies and play a more pro-active role in helping the EC maintain a clean and updated electoral roll.
3. Voters with the same name and some with the same/similar date of birth
Many Malaysians share the same name and as such many same/similar names are bound to appear in the electoral roll.
But when Malaysians with the same name and the same or similar date of birth appears, often in the same constituency or in the same state, this should certainly raise concerns.
The presence of such voters raises the possibility that they have been issued more than one IC number in order for them to vote multiple times.
For example, an analysis of the 2008 general election electoral roll for Terengganu found 369 voters named “Fatimah binti Ismail” and 346 named “Fatimah binti Abdullah”.
Among the 369 “Fatimah binti Ismails”, 10 pairs were found to have same/similar date of births.
Among the 346 “Fatimah binti Abdullahs”, 13 pairs were found to have same/similar date of births.
This seems like too much of a coincidence especially when one considers that Terengganu experienced a significant percentage increase in the number of voters from 1999 to 2004, after the state fell to PAS in the 1999 general elections.
This example illustrates how conventional methods of data mining conducted by Mimos for the PSC on Electoral Reform are insufficient to detect problems in the electoral roll.
More refined searches such as looking for same names with similar or same date of births (the first six digits of the IC number) are required.
4. Voters who have IC addresses with the state of birth as ‘7x’, indicating that they are born overseas
Voters who are not born in Malaysia have ‘71′ as their 7th and 8th digits in their IC number. There has been much speculation that non-Malaysian have been given citizenship and hence, voting rights, in order to have them vote for the ruling government.
Malaysiakini recently reported on a certain ‘Mismah’ being originally listed as a permanent resident and registered as a voter and then later being listed as a citizen in the NRD website.
A preliminary analysis of the September 2011 electoral roll for voters in Selangor turned up 30 voters with ‘Indonesian’ sounding names (only one name). For example, Juwairiyah (IC: 560317715158), is a ‘71′ voter in the Gombak parliamentary constituency.
Table 1 below shows the full list of these 30 names.
Table 1 below shows the full list of these 30 names.
This is not to say that those who the digits 71 in their ICs and who appear on the electoral roll are necessarily suspicious voters. But the precedent of illegal immigrants in Sabah, many of them from Indonesia and Philippines, being given fake ICs to register as voters should make one especially wary of such cases.
There were over 167,000 ICs with the state of origin digits listed as ‘7x’ (71, 74 and 75) in the 3Q 2011 electoral roll.
Our findings are thus only a small sub-sample of this larger dataset. While many of these names are of Malaysian citizens born in China and India, much more in-depth analysis needs to be done in order to ascertain the percentage of voters among this dataset, which are legitimate citizens and those who have been given IC numbers through less than legitimate means.
5. Voters in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur in 3Q and 4Q of 2011 who do not have house addresses, even though other newly-registered voters in the same locality have house addresses
One would not expect that voters who are newly registered in Kuala Lumpur or Selangor would still be registered in addresses without house numbers.
Given the 100 percent urbanisation rate in Kuala Lumpur and an almost 100 percent urbanisation rate in Selangor, it is surprising that some voters would still have IC addresses without house numbers.
What is even more surprising is that there are still voters who are registered in addresses without house numbers in the same locality, where other newly-registered voters are registered in addresses with house numbers.
For example, according to Table 2 below, Syahrul Ali Mansur (IC: 691023715099) is a newly-registered voter in 3Q 2011 in Kampung Puah, which is in the Wangsa Maju parliamentary constituency.
Table 2 also lists nine other newly-registered voters in 3Q 2011 in the same locality which do have house numbers.
Voters who fall into this category are still being compiled from 3Q 2011 and 4Q 2011 in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
In Part 2 of this article, five problems which have to do with postal voters will be examined in greater detail.
ONG KIAN MING holds a PhD in political science from Duke University. He is currently a lecturer at UCSI University.