• The Ministry of Youth and Sports needs to do more to improve the quality of running events in Malaysia

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 1st of August, 2017

    The Ministry of Youth and Sports needs to do more to improve the quality of running events in Malaysia

    The Challenge Putrajaya Half Marathon 2017 was initially scheduled to be on the 17th of April, 2017. The original poster promoting this event said that this event was supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sports (KBS) and also Perbadanan Putrajaya. The race has been postponed to the 1st of October 2017. The race organizers later admitted that they did not have the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Perbadanan Putrajaya. It is uncertain whether the runners affected by this cancellation have received the promised refunds.[1]

    In 2015, the HRDF Half Marathon was cancelled.[2] Some runners have yet to receive their refunds – and this is a run organized by a government agency!

    It is experiences such as these that prompted me to conduct a survey among the running community. The “Malaysian Runners Survey” was conducted using google docs.[3] 473 unique responses were collected over 2 weeks (from the 17th to the 30th of July, 2017). 331 of the respondents were male (70%) while 143 were female (30%). 354 respondents were over 30 years of age (74.8%), 114 respondents from 18 to 30 years of age (24.1%) and 5 were below 18 years of age (1.1%). Almost all of the respondents were Malaysia (457 out of 473 or 96.6%). Most of the respondents (374 out of 473 or 79.1%) had never won any cash prizes in a race.

    Among the questions asked was one which tried to gauge the level of support for a special body to be set up by the government to monitor athletic events, especially races. 36.8% of respondents strongly supported and another 36.8% supports this proposal. The fact that a large majority (77.6%) of respondents supported or strongly supported this proposal shows that there is current dissatisfaction among the running community over the races which are being organized. Some of the comments reflect the desire to have better event organizers who will not ‘run away with the money’ or cancel races without any notice or reason given. Some of the comments reflect the desire to have better organized races with proper Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) so that the quality of races can be maintained at a high level. Some respondents also want this body to ensure that the entry fee for races remain affordable. This proposal was recently made by a runner, Juani Abu Bakar, and subsequently reported in some news outlets.[4]

    When I was given the opportunity in the special chamber in parliament yesterday to bring up the proposal of a sport monitoring body, especially for races / runs in Malaysia, I was given a very cookie cutter reply by the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Datuk M. Saravanan. The reply referred to Section 34 of the Sports Development Act 1997 (Act 576) which refers to the use of recognized international rules and guidelines for competitions organized by a sports body.

    It also refers to Section 36 of the same act which states that a company who is involved in any sporting activity, as may be prescribed by the Minister in the regulations, must apply for a license to operate by the Commissioner of Sports.

    This reply ignores the reality on the ground. Firstly, nearly all of the races in Malaysia are NOT organized by an official sports body such as the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) or one of its affiliates at the state levels. Hence, these race organizers do not have to follow the guidelines as stipulated under Section 34 of the Sports Development Act 1997.

    Secondly, it is not common practice for race organizers or companies to register themselves with the Sports Commissioner. Even if there are race organizers who register with the Sports Commissioner, it is unclear if there are steps currently taken to ensure that the quality of these races is of a sufficiently high standard or that refunds must be given back to runners if a race is cancelled or postponed.

    If the Minister is really serious about improving the quality of races and protecting the well-being of runners, he should establish a working group with relevant stakeholders (sponsors, race organizers, event organizers, experienced runners from running groups) to lay out the necessary guidelines and procedures which can then be implemented under the Sports Development Act 1997.

    The other findings from the Malaysian Runners’ Survey include the following:

    (i)                  A majority of respondents feel that the it is increasingly difficult to find runs which are both affordable and well-organized, in the entry price range of RM50 and below.

    (ii)                A majority of respondents feel that non-Malaysians should be allowed to participate in races in Malaysia and that they should be allowed to win prizes but with the condition that there is a separate category for non-Malaysians.

    (iii)              A majority of Malaysians agree with bib-switching but with the caveat that the race organizers must be informed.

    I have passed a copy of the results of the Malaysian Runners’ Survey to the Minister of Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, through his Deputy, Datuk M. Saravanan, yesterday in parliament.

    I urge the Minister to do more to ensure that the quality of races in Malaysian is maintained at a high level. As an athlete himself, I am sure that he would want to see the interest of runners in Malaysia protected and that more and more Malaysians will have access to affordable and high quality races in the country.

    I applaud the Ministry of Youth and Sports for showing the way by organizing the Fit Malaysia run on the 12th of August, which is free of charge, and also for organizing the SEA games run in Putrajaya on the 19th of August, so that runners can also support our SEA games marathon athletes who will also be competing in Putrajaya on the same morning.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Attachment 1: Malaysian Runners’ Survey, 30th of July 2017

    Attachment 2: Jawapan Kamar Khas – Badan Pemantauan Acara Larian

    Attachment 3: Letter to YB Khairy Jamaluddin on the Malaysian Runners’ Survey, 31 July 2017

    [1] https://www.facebook.com/events/1693451187639577/permalink/1784785265172835/

    [2] https://www.facebook.com/HRDF-Half-Marathon-2015-819245831478966/

    [3] https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1fLzyuDKh1aPltpmuvbdgmCfj1Fqod17CvMuwU675MhE/edit#responses

    [4] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/features/article/running-enthusiasts-call-for-monitoring-body

  • The Minister in charge of SPAD has to answer to taxi and ehailing drivers if a Drivers’ Tribunal is not established under the Land Public Transport Act (Amendment) 2010

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 27th of July, 2017

    The Minister in charge of SPAD has to answer to taxi and ehailing drivers if a Drivers’ Tribunal is not established under the Land Public Transport Act (Amendment) 2010

    Earlier this month, in a dialogue session organized by the DAP with ehailing drivers, one of the main complaints we heard was that there was no independent body or a third party which the drivers can appeal to in they disagreed with a decision by the ehailing company they are driving for. For example, we heard complaints from a number of drivers who claimed to have been banned or suspended from an ehailing company for no apparent reason. Many taxi drivers also have complaints against the companies they are driving for. They also have no independent body or third body which can hear their complaints and make a ruling.

    The Land Public Transport Act (Amendment) 2010, which is currently being debated in parliament, does not address this problem at all. As such, I proposed a motion to introduce a new section in this act to establish a “Taxi Drivers’ and Ehailing Drivers’ Tribunal” (Appendix 2). This tribunal is similar to the Consumers’ Tribunal which was established in Section 85 to Section 122 of the Consumers’ Protection Act 1999. Sadly, my motion to introduce this tribunal was rejected by the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat (Appendix 1). In her reply in parliament, the Minister in charge of tabling this bill, Dato’ Sri Nancy Shukri rejected the need for a tribunal because she said that SPAD can currently handle the complaints of the taxi drivers and later on, of the ehailing drivers when ehailing is legalised after the gazetting of this bill and the ehailing licenses have been approved.

    The problem with this suggestion is that SPAD may not have the legal jurisdiction to compel the ehailing companies to follow its decisions on disputes between drivers and their companies. For example, SPAD may find that an ehailing company owes a driver thousands of ringgit in unpaid fares that is subject to a dispute. Can SPAD compel the ehailing company to pay this driver his unpaid fares? Or will the driver have to go to court to seek his unpaid fares? The advantage of a tribunal is that it is a cost-effective way for drivers have their complaints heard without the need to pay expensive legal and court fees. There is also the question of whether SPAD has the capacity to investigate and hear all the cases involving ehailing drivers after this act is passed and gazetted.

    This tribunal is not just for ehailing drivers. It can also be used by taxi drivers who have complaints against their companies.

    Since this tribunal is not likely to be established under this act, I call upon all ehailing and taxi drivers who have complaints against their companies to call the SPAD complaint hotline (1800-88-7723), SMS SPAD at 15888 or email SPAD at aduan@spad.gov.my to lodge their complaints, if they have any, against their respective companies, to show SPAD that there is an urgent need for a Drivers’ Tribunal to hear and to rule on these complaints.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix 1: Letter from the Speaker rejecting my motion to introduce a Taxi Drivers and Ehailing Drivers Tribunal in the Land Public Transport Act (Amendment) 2010

    Appendix 2: Motion to introduce a Taxi and Ehailing Drivers’ Tribunal in the Land Public Transport Act (Amendment) 2010

  • Challenges for the MRT and public transportation in the Klang Valley

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 24th of July, 2017

    Challenges for the MRT and public transportation in the Klang Valley

    The full MRT line from Sungai Buloh to Kajang has been operational for a week already. After the initial fanfare and trains packed with Ministers, MRT has to now face the challenges of (i) reaching its daily ridership targets (ii) ensuring accessibility, affordability and integration and (iii) maintaining financial sustainability.

    1) Reaching its daily ridership targets

    This may seem like an obvious statement but the main challenge for the MRT is to get more and more people to use it. According to MRT, the planned capacity for the Sungai Buloh-Kajang line (Line 1) is a daily ridership of about 400,000 passengers. Each train set has four cars with a total capacity of 1200 passengers and the trains will run at a frequency of approximately 3.5 minutes.[1] More recently, this figure has been revised downwards to a ridership of 150,000 a day.[2]

    It will take some time before users get used to taking the MRT including getting to know the MRT route, the feeder bus schedules and route, how to use the MRT to connect to other forms of public transportation such as the LRT, KTM and Rapid KL buses and the stations which have car parks.

    To put the 150,000 daily ridership number in context, it is useful to compare to the daily ridership numbers for the Kelana Jaya and Ampang LRT lines (See Figure 1 below)

    The Kelana Jaya line is the busiest with a daily ridership of 218,888 in Q1 2017 followed by the Ampang line with a daily ridership of 155,217. The KTM Komuter has a daily ridership of 111,163 and the KL Monorail trails behind with a daily ridership of 54,725.

    The daily ridership of the LRT, KTM Komuter and Monorail experienced a decline in Q1 2016 due to the significant fare hike which took place in December 2015. In fact, all these rail lines have not recovered from their pre-Q1 2016 daily ridership numbers even though the LRT extension to Putra Heights started its operations in June 2016. The increase in the daily ridership numbers from Q2 2016 to Q3 2016 was hardly significant. The daily ridership of the KL Monorail reached a four year low in Q1 2017 partly due to the delay in the delivery of the four car monorail by SCOMI to Prasarana (The dispute between SCOMI and Prasarana is still tied up in the courts).[3]

    The whole point of building an MRT line rather than a less expensive LRT line is to increase the passenger capacity. While the initial targeted daily ridership of 150,000 is a good target to aim for in the short term, in the longer run, the MRT Line 1 ridership should eventually exceed that of the Kelana Jaya LRT line. In the meantime, MRT has to face the challenge to increase its daily ridership by ten-fold, from 15,000 before the line was fully operational to Kajang to the targeted 150,000 now that Line 1 is fully operational.

    2) Accessibility, Affordability and Integration

    To increase its ridership, MRT has to be aware of the need for accessibility to its stations, the need to maintain affordable fares and integration to other Rail Lines.

    In terms of accessibility, MRT has done a decent job in its feeder bus network that connects nearby housing areas to its stations. (The feeder bus network to LRT stations in comparison is far more limited). The bus routes can be downloaded from the MRT website[4] although as far as I know, the routes and the bus schedules have not been installed at the bus stops yet. There is also no MRT app which shows these bus routes. Making this information more accessible will channel more people to take the MRT.

    In terms of affordability, the price of the MRT fares is not too different from the LRT. A cashless trip from Kajang to Sungai Buloh costs RM5.50 compared to RM5.30 for a cashless trip from Gombak to Putra Heights. SPAD set the MRT fares so that they would be in line with the LRT fares. Dollar for dollar, our LRT and MRT fares are still more expensive than Singapore especially since Singapore practices integrated fares where a journey from home to work involving a bus trip and an MRT trip counts as one trip whereas in Malaysia, one has to pay separately for a bus trip, an LRT trip and an MRT trip. Many people are taking advantage of the 50% discounted fare now, which lasts until the 31st of August. I think this is a good move in that it will allow more people to get used to taking the MRT during this period. The test will come after the 31st of August when fares revert to their normal rates. Will there be a significant fall in ridership similar to what was experienced by the Sunway BRT when ridership fell by more than 60% as a result of the imposition of ridiculously expensive fares?[5] Only time will tell.

    One way in which MRT can make it more affordable is to introduce a monthly pass at a cost of between RM100 to RM150 which entitles a passenger to make unlimited trips. Most metro lines in the world have some form of weekly or monthly pass with unlimited trips. My RAPID used to offer this card for the LRT but has since been phased out. One of the challenges in introducing this monthly card may be the fear of lost revenue on the part of My RAPID (more on this below).

    Finally, the MRT needs to be integrated with other forms of rail transportation in order to increase its ridership. For Line 1, there are numerous stations which connect to the KTM (Kajang MRT), to the Ampang LRT Line (Maluri MRT, Merdeka MRT), to the Sri Petaling LRT Line (Merdeka MRT), to the Kelana Jaya LRT Line (Pasar Seni MRT) and to KL Sentral (Muzium Negara MRT). As the rail network in the Klang Valley expands after the MRT Line 2 and the LRT Line 3 are built, more stations will be integrated with the MRT lines. This kind of integration not only increases ridership on MRT Line 1 but will also have a positive spillover effect on the other LRT lines. The only negative effect may be for some of the KTM stations such as Kajang since the frequency of trains for the MRT is much higher than the KTM Komuter.

    3) Financial sustainability

    Any discussion on the sustainability of public transportation has to involve the question of cost. The cost of constructing the MRT Line 1 has been the subject of public debate. The government announced that the total construction cost (not including land acquisition and the rolling stock i.e. the trains) was RM21 billion, two billion lower than the initially projected cost of RM23 billion.[6] Others have disputed this cost including how much was paid to MMC-Gamuda, the project delivery partner (PDP).[7]

    What is less well-known and less debated is the fact that MRT Corp, which is the asset owner of the MRT line, does not own the debt associated with the cost of construction. A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Dana Infra have issued bonds to finance the MRT Line 1. At the time of writing, Dana Infra has issued a total of RM36.9 billion in bonds (We don’t have a breakdown of how much of this was spent on MRT Line 1). This amount is projected to increase as the construction of Line 2 begins.

    The advantage of the separation of debt and asset ownership is that MRT Corp does not have to worry about the debt servicing costs, which even based on the construction cost of RM21 billion, will amount to approximately RM1 billion a year. This way, MRT can focus on expanding its ridership and earning non-fare revenue through other means.

    As the asset owner, MRT has signed an agreement with Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd, which is owned by PRASARANA, to operate and run the train and feeder bus services. PRASARANA already has the experience and the facilities to hire and train both bus and train drivers so it makes sense for the operations to be given to Rapid KL. The agreement between MRT and Rapid Rail also states that MRT will receive all non-fare revenue while Rapid Rail will collect all fare revenue (MRT fare as well as feeder bus fare).

    The challenge for PRASARANA is to ensure that its MRT related operations are profitable. I had written last year regarding the financial challenges facing PRASARANA.[8] Because of its high accumulated debt, its revenue of roughly half a billion RM was barely sufficient to cover its financing costs. With the increase in PRASARANA’s debt from the LRT extension and from the ongoing construction of the LRT 3 line, its debt servicing cost will definitely increase. It remains to be seen if PRASARANA can earn an operational profit from its MRT operations. The feeder bus network is likely to be loss making, at least initially, while the train operations will only be profitable if the ridership targets can be met. How long will PRASRANA be willing to run these operations at a loss? How long will the Ministry of Finance subsidize PRASARANA while it is running up these operational losses for the MRT line? We have to wait and see.

    In the meantime, MRT faces the challenge of raising its income through non-fare revenue strategies such as property development around its stations, advertising and retail. Since MRT has no fare related revenue, this has put more emphasis on the need to look for non-fare revenue sources. MRT opened up advertising concession agreements for its interior, outdoor and train advertising packages. Big Tree Outdoor (BTO) which won the outdoor advertising concession, estimates that as much as RM300 million can be generated from this 10-year contract.[9]

    MRT has also sold station naming rights at four of its stations which costs RM1.2 to RM1.5 million a year.[10]

    According to MRT’s commercial and land management director, Datuk Haris Fadzilah Hassan, MRT Corp is expecting to earn between RM22 million and RM25 million from retail, advertising and parking revenue annually. Whether or not this is sufficient for MRT to cover its operational expenses remains to be seen especially since its administrative expenses for the Financial Year 2016 totalled RM53 million.

    Perhaps, MRT can supplement its income via transit oriented property development, especially in selected locations along the MRT Line 2 which runs from Sungai Buloh through Serdang and all the way to Putrajaya.

    4) Is MRT a game-changer?

    Some people have commented that MRT is a ‘game-changer’. I don’t quite agree, at least for now. There is no denying that the rail system in the Klang Valley has increased its area of coverage over the past 20 years. The introduction of the MRT should be seen as an additional rail service in this larger rail network.

    This is not to deny that taking the new MRT trains is a much more pleasant experience compared to the LRT. The stations are larger and better designed, there are more Park & Ride facilities available and the trains are wider. On Saturday, I parked at the Kajang MRT and took the train to Muzium Negara and then to Pasar Seni before going back to Kajang. I have also seen many of the MRT feeder buses going to previously unserved housing areas in my parliamentary constituency to connect passengers to the Cheras Batu 11, the BTHO, the Taman Connaught and the Bukit Dukung MRT stations, just to name a few.

    Perhaps the MRT can be called a game-changer when Line 2 (and perhaps Line 3) has been built and opened. But for now, I will do my part in encouraging the voters in my constituency to use public transportation especially the MRT and at the same time, monitor closely to see if MRT can successfully face the challenges I’ve posed in this statement. I wish them nothing but the best!

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Selfie at Kajang MRT Station Names

    Long Escalator at Muzium Negara Station

    Inside the MRT train

    Screen above passengers showing next station

    Inside the MRT train

    [1] http://www.mymrt.com.my/en/sbk/the-mrt-sungai-buloh-kajang-line

    [2] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/the-cheat-sheet-for-klang-valleys-newest-ride-the-mrt-sbk

    [3] http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/07/11/no-end-in-sight-to-kls-monorail-woes-as-scomi-prasarana-dispute-lingers/

    [4] http://www.mymrt.com.my/en/sbk/travel-info

    [5] http://penanginstitute.org/v3/research/penang-institute-in-kuala-lumpur/the-sunway-bus-rapid-transit-brt-line-lessons-for-the-future

    [6] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/mrt-corp-keeps-sungai-buloh-kajang-line-within-rm23b-budget

    [7] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/mrt-corp-keeps-sungai-buloh-kajang-line-within-rm23b-budget

    [8] http://ongkianming.com/2016/08/09/press-statement-five-reasons-why-public-transportation-in-malaysia-is-more-expensive-compared-to-singapore/

    [9] https://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/09/176703/bto-led-consortium-wins-mrt-advertising-concession

    [10] http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/07/11/four-mrt-stations-along-sbk-line-to-be-branded/

  • Of wildlife sanctuaries and semiconductor production

    (This article can also be read at the Penang Institute in KL Column in the Malaysian Insight, 23rd July 2017)

    WHAT does an elephant wildlife sanctuary have in common with semiconductor production? Both require a supply of clean water to be sustained. Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Sungai Dua Water Treatment Plant which is run by the Penang Water Supply Corporation (Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang or PBA for short). This water treatment plant supplies more than 80% of the water used by residential and commercial users in Penang.

    The Sungai Dua water treatment plant’s water source is the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve, which is where I also spent a few days. The reserve also serves as the water catchment area for the Muda dam as well as the Pedu and Ahning dams. (See below)

    Most Malaysians have never heard of Ulu Muda, let alone visited this national treasure. It is home to 50-60 wild Asian elephants (the estimated total population in Peninsular Malaysia ranges between 1200 to 1600).

    I was fortunate enough to spot two schools of elephants during my first evening in Ulu Muda as our boat was slowly gliding down the river. Other than the Asian elephant, Ulu Muda is also inhabited by other large mammals including tapirs, sambar and barking deers, spotted leopards, sun bears and the agile gibbons, as well as 10 species of hornbill including the helmeted, great and rhinoceros hornbills. We spotted many groups of hornbills flying in majestic formation during our evening rides down the river.

    Apart from the animals, there are vast varieties of plants and insects in the forest including the tualang tree, which can hold over a hundred beehives and the kundur trees with their massive buttresses (see below).

    Sadly, logging of the secondary forest, which has been ongoing for many years, is starting to edge closer and closer to the areas critical to the elephant habitat, namely the salt licks. These are areas in the forest that produce minerals consumed regularly by the elephants and other large mammals to supplement their diet.


    (The Ayer Hangat Salt Lick, the only salt lick which is also a hot spring. Notice the elephant droppings all around the place)

    We spotted an old logging road skirting the bank of the Muda dam and upon visiting the area where the logs were collected before being transported out, we found plans for a new road going into the heart of the Ulu Muda forest reserve, very close to the eco-resort where we were putting up.

    This sort of irresponsible logging not only has a significant impact on the animal and plant life in Ulu Muda, but it also will have an impact on the quality of water supply to the residents in Kedah and Penang.

    As it is, the many years of logging on the outskirts of Ulu Muda have turned the river brown with sand and sediment. If more and more logging is allowed, it is possible that the quality and quantity of water taken in at the Sungai Dua treatment plant may be jeopardised.

    Of course, the state government of Kedah will argue that it needs revenue from logging for its coffers. One way in which the Kedah state governments (or any state government in Malaysia, for that matter) can be compensated for keeping its forests intact is through international funding under the Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (or REDD+) initiative. Funding, for example, is available through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and in South-east Asia, our neighbours Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are part of this initiative but sadly, not Malaysia. The federal government needs to work together with the relevant United Nations bodies under the UNFCCC framework so that a clear and transparent path towards obtaining funding through REDD+ can be obtained. Strong leadership from federal government on this matter has become even more urgent given that irresponsible parties and companies are trying to dupe certain state governments into participating in so-called REDD schemes.

    A semiconductor plant, which requires a regular and clean supply of water, may seem very far removed from the elephant sanctuary in Ulu Muda, but in fact, they are part and parcel of a larger ecosystem. The preservation of the Ulu Muda water catchment area, which is part of the elephants’ habitat, is crucial to ensuring a clean and regular water supply to the largest water treatment plant 200km downstream in Penang.

    * Dr Ong Kian Ming is the Member of Parliament for Serdang, Selangor and is also the General Manager of Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur. He holds a PhD in Political Science from Duke University, an MPhil in Economics from the University of Cambridge and a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics.

  • Has the Election Commission just implicated itself by admitting that it has destroyed the electoral rolls it used for the 1994 and 2003 delimitation exercises?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 22nd of July, 2017

    Has the Election Commission just implicated itself by admitting that it has destroyed the electoral rolls it used for the 1994 and 2003 delimitation exercises?

    The recent decision made by the Court of Appeal on Thursday, 20th of July, 2017, to set aside the High Court order for the Election Commission to provide the Selangor government information on 136,272 registered voters without proper addresses, may seem like a setback for those seeking to put a stop to the ongoing delimitation exercise. But part of the argument used by the federal counsel – namely that the Election Commission had discarded the records of these voters from the electoral rolls used in the 1994 and 2003 delimitation exercise – may come back to haunt the Election Commission.

    The Selangor government can still appeal the Court of Appeal judgment at the Federal Court. But even if it loses the appeal at the apex court, the judicial review filed by the Selangor government against the Election Commission will still have to be heard at the High Court (Proceedings were postponed while waiting for the Court of Appeal decision stated above).

    Recall that in December 2016, the High Court granted leave to the Selangor state government for its judicial review challenging the constitutionality of the ongoing delimitation exercise, which started on the 15th of September, 2016.

    To recap, the judicial review case brought forth by the Selangor government was based on the following four grounds:

    1. Ground ONE: The EC’s Proposals are Unconstitutional as Tainted by Malapportionment and Gerrymandering
    2. Ground TWO: The Electoral Roll Complaint:  Unconstitutionality arising from the EC’s failure to use the Current Electoral Rolls
    3. Ground THREE: Election Commission’s Use of a Defective Electoral Roll With Missing Addresses of Voters
    4. Ground FOUR: Insufficient Particulars in the Proposed Recommendations Which Impaired Right To Make Meaningful Representations

    By admitting that it has destroyed previous records of voters, including details containing the addresses of these voters, the Election Commission may have opened the door for its ongoing delimitation exercise to be questioned under Ground THREE (see above), which is the use of a defective electoral roll to conduct the delimitation exercise.

    To make things easier to understand, let me illustrate with a simple example. Jalan Cheras is a very long road which starts in the heart of Kuala Lumpur at the intersection between Jalan Pudu and Jalan Tun Razak. It snakes through many housing areas in Cheras before finally ending in the center of Kajang town. (One has to remember that the naming of this road predated the creation of the Federal Territories Kuala Lumpur so the entire Jalan Cheras would have been in the state of Selangor)

    Imagine if the voter was assigned to a particular locality along Jalan Cheras and the exact address of this voter was subsequently destroyed. How will the Election Commission determine which constituency this voter will be placed if the boundaries of the constituencies of the seats along Jalan Cheras were to be changed? At the time of writing, under the boundaries used in the 2013 general elections, Jalan Cheras passes through the P123 Cheras parliamentary constituency and the N23 Dusun Tua and N25 Kajang state seats in the P101 Hulu Langat parliament constituency. With the rapid development which has happened and is currently happening along Jalan Cheras, how can the EC accurately determine which constituency to place a voter without knowing his or her exact address?

    In reality, the dirty little secret which the EC already knows but does not want to admit to is that our electoral roll is seriously flawed. In the past, when the BN was dominant and there was little scrutiny of the electoral roll, the EC allowed politicians (mostly from the BN) to register voters en masse with little regard to knowing exactly where these voters were living at. Some had complete addresses, others didn’t. Prior to 2002, voters did not need to register according to their IC address. We are still living with this legacy till today. Which is why there is a large number of voters without complete addresses even in developed states like Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

    This much was clear to me as I uncovered various problems associated with the electoral roll under the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (MERAP) in 2012.

    This is also the reason why lawyers representing the EC always refer to Section 9A of the Elections Act 1958 which prevents a gazetted electoral roll from being challenged in court. They hide behind this so-called ‘defense’ even though in this particular case, the Selangor government is not questioning the inclusion of these 136,272 voters in the electoral roll, but is asking for more information to determine if the constituency delimitation process has been carried out in accordance to constitutional principles.

    The fight against the unfair delimitation exercise will continue. The judicial review case taken up by the Selangor government has prevented the Election Commission from starting the First Round of the constitutionally mandated public hearing process. The High Court also recently ruled in favour of the Selangor state government by granting an injuction application to stop the Election Commission from passing the delimitation exercise proposal to the Prime Minister without the inclusion of Selangor.

    The judicial review in the High Court will continue. In the worst of circumstances, even if the High Court rules against the Selangor government, the EC must complete two rounds of a public hearing including a public display of maps and relevant information between rounds one and two before the delimitation exercise for Peninsular Malaysia can be completed. This gives time for the Selangor government to mount an appeal all the way up to the Federal Court if necessary.

    There is also another High Court hearing on the right of the EC to move voters from the Batang Kali state seat to the Kuala Kubu state seat in Selangor during the ‘boundary correction’ exercise which took place in April 2016.

    The Election Commission must be surprised by the slew of court cases taken up by the Pakatan Harapan state governments in Selangor and Penang and by groups of affected voters in various states including Penang, Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Johor. Even though some of these cases have been ruled in the favour of the EC, it must know that the will of the people cannot be defeated so easily, especially when the pressure for reforming our electoral system is maintained by organisations such as BERSIH and by supporters who want clean and fair elections in Malaysia.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

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