• Seat allocation for the Sarawak 2016 state elections

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the seat allocation for the Sarawak 2016 state elections on the 26th of April 2016

    I know that many opposition supporters are disappointed with DAP and PKR for not being able to avoid clashing in 6 out of 82 state seats in the upcoming Sarawak state elections. This disappointment and frustration is understandable. I too wish that it could have been avoided. But in order to explain to our supporters why this situation came about, I feel that it is necessary to provide a historical as well as a more recent context.

    Let’s go back to just after the 2011 Sarawak state elections when PKR was accused of being too greedy when it contested in 49 out of the then 71 state seats at stake. When Sarawak PKR state chairman, Baru Bian, was asked about PKR’s relatively poor performance in those elections and the decision to contest in 49 seats, he had this to say[1]:

    Baru admits that this strategy came with a heavy cost. The party was severely stretched because the rural campaign was resource-intensive. “The burden was more on us (to deliver) while DAP won more seats because their resources could be concentrated (in a few cities). But this is okay because we are all part of Pakatan,” he said.

    In a subsequent interview in 2011, Baru Bian said the following[2]:

    Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian said the party will focus only on a few winnable seats in the coming parliamentary election, rather than contest all the remaining seats in the state that the other Pakatan member parties won’t take on. He was responding to criticism that the multi-racial party had been “too greedy” by contesting as many as 49 seats in the recent state election, in which it won only three seats. 

    “In (the next) parliamentary election, we will use a different method,” Baru (left) said in an interview with selected media at the PKR headquarters in Petaling Jaya this morning. “Because of restrictions in resources, in particular financial resources, we will focus on certain areas (which are winnable), based on the state election results.” He also said PKR hoped PAS dan DAP would “share the responsibility” of contesting the remaining seats “If they are prepared to be seen as multiracial – you all know reports said that DAP is a Chinese chauvinist party – it will be a good time now (for them) to take on the remaining Dayak and Melanau areas. “I do hope they will bear this responsibility.”

    In the aftermath of the 2011 state elections, DAP was responsive to the call to shoulder a greater burden of contesting in the rural areas. In fact, in the 2013 general elections, DAP fielded Dayak candidates in 5 rural parliament seats – Mas Gading, Serian, Mukah, Kapit and Lawas – and also a Dayak candidate in the semi-rural parliament seat of Bintulu. (In comparison, DAP fielded candidates in 5 urban parliament seats in 2013)

    The willingness of PKR to relinquish some of the rural seats was repeated by Azmin Ali in 2013.[3]

    Sekarang DAP sudah mula masuk ke kawasan pedalaman dan membina kekuatan. Kita sedia berunding kerana akhirnya yang menang ialah PR. Kalau DAP dan PAS ada kekuatan, KEADILAN akan sedia melepaskan kerusi terbabit. Kami pun tak mampu nak pegang terlalu banyak kerusi kerana ia memakan kos yang tinggi.

    DAP’s commitment to going into the rural areas in Sarawak was demonstrated by the more than 50 projects done under the Impian Sarawak banner since 2013[4]. From providing water supply to rebuilding broken jetties, from upgrading roads to medical and education camps, DAP’s track record in the rural areas is there for all to see. In fact, you can buy the Impian Sabah and Sarawak coffee table book for a full list and photos of these projects![5]

    Of course, whether or not these projects will enable the opposition, specifically the DAP, to win any of these rural seats is still not known. But to answer the question of whether DAP or PKR is the better party to contest in some of the rural seats claimed by both parties, a more objective measure needed to be used. Which is why DAP and PKR commissioned a survey to evaluate the popularity of both parties in six seats claimed by both parties.

    The results are summarized in Table 1 below (and provided in Appendix 1 below).

    DAP had significantly higher favourability ratings compared to PKR in 5 out of the 6 seats surveyed – N2 Tasik Biru, N13 Batu Kitang, N23 Bukit Semuja, N32 Simanggang and N75 Senadin. DAP and PKR were about even in the remaining seat of N19 Mambong.

    If going purely by these survey results, which both parties had agreed to abide by, DAP would have contested in 5 out of these 6 seats. But DAP choose to give up N13 Batu Kitang, arguably the most winnable seat out of these six seats, for the right to contest in rural and less winnable seats in other parts of Sarawak. The explanation of the negotiation process on the part of the DAP has been done by Anthony Loke, DAP National Organizing Secretary. What I would like to highlight here are the survey results which are not widely known yet.

    To those who accuse the DAP of being greedy and for not wanting to contest in unwinnable seats, let me offer two counter examples. There are 8 state seats in the mostly Iban majority areas of Sri Aman, Betong and Lubok Antu (Figure 1 below). After the conclusion of the seat negotiation (or what DAP thought was the final negotiation) on the 7th of April, 2016, DAP asked to contest in one of these eight state seats – N32 Simanggang. DAP had conceded the state seat of N36 Layar to PKR even though there was a potential candidate who had been stationed in this seat and working the ground for the past one year. DAP’s candidate for N32 Simanggang, Leon Donald, lives in the Sri Aman area, contested in this seat in 2011 and had been working the ground for the past 5 years. The survey results also showed the DAP candidate being more popular and well known compared to the PKR candidate. Is the DAP greedy for wanting to contest in only one out of eight state seats in this area? And where the survey result had shown DAP being the more favoured party with the stronger candidate compared to PKR? I think not…

    Figure 1: Eight state seats in the Sri Aman, Betong and Lubok Antu areas, PKR contesting in all eight seats, DAP is contesting only in N32 Simanggang

    At the same time, DAP is contesting in all three state seats in the parliamentary seat of Kapit – N61 Pelagus, N62 Katibas and N63 Bukit Goram. These seats are in areas with far flung longhouses, many of which can only be accessible via longboat. The BN candidate won 78% of the popular vote in this seat in the 2013 general elections. While the Pelagus state seat was won by a then independent candidate – George Lagong – in 2011 who later joined the Sarawak Worker’s Party (SWP), this seat, along with Bukit Goram (a new state seat), are uphill tasks for DAP, without the backing of local influential leader and former BN state assemblyman, Sng Chee Wah and his son, Larry Sng.

    Figure 2: DAP contesting in all three state seats in Kapit – N61 Pelagus, N62 Katibas and N63 Bukit Goram

    I do believe that Pakatan Harapan will be able to find a way to emerge from this disagreement between DAP and PKR after the Sarawak state elections. But in the meantime, even as we are focused on fighting the BN in the other 74 state seats, it is important to set the record straight on the background behind these seat disagreements.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix 1: Party Favourability in 6 state seats where surveys were conducted

    N2 Tasik Biru

    N13 Batu Kitang

    N19 Mambong

    N23 Bukit Semuja

    N32 Simanggang

    N75 Senadin

    [1] http://www.barubian.net/2011/04/baru-reveals-why-pkr-vied-for-49-seats.html

    [2] http://www.barubian.net/2011/05/swak-pkr-to-focus-on-winnable-seats.html

    [3] http://www.roketkini.com/2013/12/26/sembang-sembang-azmin-ali/

    [4] http://www.impiansarawak.com/en/

    [5] http://dapmalaysia.org/impianbook/

  • 7828 individuals who won’t be spending Chinese New Year this year as Malaysians

    Opinion piece by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 5th of February, 2016

    7828 individuals who won’t be spending Chinese New Year this year as Malaysians

    The exodus among those going back to their hometowns to celebrate Chinese New Year has already begun. I’ll be staying put here in Selangor and enjoying the traffic, or the lack thereof. This year, however, I’ll be celebrating CNY with a little bit of a heavy heart due to a self-inflicted wound. One of the things I do every 3 months is to examine the quarterly electoral roll updates. To check on the number of newly registered voters, those who have changed their voting address and those who have been struck off the electoral roll. Recently, I was alerted by a colleague that a number of Malaysians have been taken off the electoral roll because they have been stripped of their citizenship (In BM: Dilucutkan kewarganegaraan). My curiosity was piqued. Were these individuals on some sort of terrorist watchlist which necessitated the removal of their citizenship? Were they guilty of some heinous crime such as treason? I had to investigate further.

    My findings were surprisingly and saddening. Firstly, I found that 7828 individuals who had lost their eligibility to vote because they were no longer citizens. These individuals were removed from the electoral roll in 2014 and 2015. As a comparison, the Returning Expert’s Program (REP) under Talentcorp managed to attract 3600 Malaysians to return home over the past four years.[1] This figure understates the number of Malaysians who have given up their citizenship over the past two years. It does not include those who have given up their citizenship but were never registered on the electoral roll. It almost certainly excludes those who have given up their Malaysian citizenship and have taken up citizenship in countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the other usual migration destinations for Malaysians. This list of names are almost certainly Malaysians who have given up their citizenship for Singapore citizenship because of the strictly enforced requirement that Malaysians who take up the Singapore citizenship needs to officially give up their Malaysian citizenship within a stipulated time.[2]

    Given the country of destination, it is not surprisingly that a majority of the 7828 individuals are Chinese (96.7%). The rest were Indians (2.7%), Malays (0.4%) and others (0.2%). The largest number of ex-Malaysians come from Johor (36.6%), followed by Perak (19.5%), Selangor (9.4%), WP Kuala Lumpur (6.7%), Melaka (5.6%), Penang (5.4%) and N. Sembilan (5.3%). (See Table 1 below)

    What is saddening is that these are ex-Malaysians who cared enough about the country that they registered as voters but for various reasons, decided to give up their Malaysian citizenship for greener pastures across the causeway. A majority of them also fall into the 30 to 50 age group (80.5%) which means that they are in the most productive years of their working life (See Table 2 below).

    56% of these ex-Malaysians are women while 44% are men. Without additional information, it is hard to gauge the reasons behind this gender difference e.g. the nature of their qualifications and jobs, whether they gave up their citizenship because of marriage reasons and so on.

    Aside from these statistics, what saddened me the most was when I spotted a name on the list which looked familiar. He is almost certainly an ASEAN scholar from my year. A Klang boy, he is now a medical specialist in infectious diseases and currently works in a government hospital in Singapore. His case is but the tip of the iceberg of talented ex-Malaysians who have left the country and are thriving elsewhere.[3] What makes this reality more ‘real’ (and hence, sadder) for me personally is seeing a name which I recognized.

    If any ex-Malaysian is reading this piece, I hope that you haven’t totally given up on our country. Perhaps in the future, when there has been a change in government in Malaysia, you’ll be motivated to come back and contribute in some way. And if you are coming back to Malaysia for Chinese New Year, travel safe and eat well!

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://english.astroawani.com/malaysia-news/about-3-600-malaysians-overseas-have-returned-talentcorp-71312

    [2] http://www.kln.gov.my/web/sgp_singapore/other_information/-/asset_publisher/2TQe/content/renunciation-of-malaysian-citizenship?redirect=%2Fweb%2Fsgp_singapore%2Fother_information

    [3] For a more general report on Malaysians who have taken up Singapore citizenship, read here: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/bidding-farewell-to-malaysia

  • The newly appointed Election Commission (EC) chairman should allow Sarawakians living and working outside the state to cast votes as postal voters in the upcoming Sarawak state elections

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 23rd of January, 2016

    The newly appointed Election Commission (EC) chairman should allow Sarawakians living and working outside the state to cast votes as postal voters in the upcoming Sarawak state elections

    The appointment of the new EC chairman, Datu Seri Mohd Hashim bin Abdullah takes effect today, 24th of January, 2016. He replaces Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof. In the handing over ceremony which took place 2 days ago, it was reported that the EC would be asking for a budget of RM181million for the upcoming Sarawak state elections, which is approximately two and a half times the RM78m that was spent by the EC in the 2011 Sarawak state elections.[1] The outgoing EC chairman cited increases in the cost of renting vehicles and of food as some of the main reasons for the budget increase.

    The incoming EC chairman should realize that the cost of going to the polls to cast a vote have also increased especially for the Sarawakians who are living and working outside the state. The transportation costs, whether it is flight tickets, bus tickets or boat tickets, have increased as a result of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).  The price of overnight stays in motels or hotels would also have increased. As has the price of food. It is especially costly for voters who have to travel from KL, Johor Bahru, Singapore and Kota Kinabalu to cast their votes in the interior areas such as Kapit, Hulu Rejang and Bakelalan.

    In order to lessen the financial burdens of such voters, the EC should allow for Sarawakians living and working in Sabah, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore to cast their votes as postal voters rather than forcing them to travel back to Sarawak to cast their votes. In the 13th general election, Sarawakians (and indeed, all Malaysians) who were living outside Malaysia and Singapore were allowed to register as postal voters. The same option should be given to Sarawakians so that they can cast their vote in the EC office or in a suitable location in every state in Peninsular Malaysia, in Sabah and also at the Malaysian embassy in Singapore a few days before the actual polling day. And just like in the 13th general election, their votes will be considered as postal votes and returned to their respective constituencies to be counted on polling day itself.

    This is not a new recommendation. The parliamentary select committee on electoral reform, which was set up in 2011, listed this as one of their recommendations in its final report which was tabled in 2012. (See below)

    Source: Laporan Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas Berhubung dengan Penambahbaikan Proses Pilihan Raya, mukasurat 39.

    This should be one of the first priorities of the newly appointed EC chairman in order to ease the financial burdens of Sarawakians who would otherwise have to make a costly journey to cast their votes in the upcoming Sarawak state elections.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1674119

  • The Election Commission should not allow spurious objections to the addition of voters to the electoral roll

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 18th of September 2015

    The Election Commission should not allow spurious objections to the addition of voters to the electoral roll

    In the past month, many DAP representatives have received complaints that newly registered voters were being objected to being included in the electoral roll by unknown individuals. These voters were being asked to attend a public hearing that was being held at the Selangor Election Commission at Wisma PKNS in Shah Alam. I attended such a public hearing on the 10th of September and what I found was utterly unacceptable.

    On this day, the voters who were being objected to were registered in the N38 Paya Jaras and the N55 Dengkil state seats, both of which were contested by UMNO in the 2013 General Election. All of the 20 voters I spoke to (newly registered as well as registered voters who requested for a change in address) had been living in the address on their IC for at least 3 years, some of them more than 10 years. The reason given by the objectors (or “pembantah”) was that the voter cannot be traced (“Pemilih Tidak Dapat DiKesan”) (See Appendix 1 for a sample). No additional proof was given to show that the objector had indeed done his or her homework in order to trace the voter that was being objected to. The fact that these objections were spurious was clear when all of the voters whom I spoke to on the 10th of September had the objections against them rejected i.e. all of them were approved to be included in the electoral roll.

    While the right to object to the inclusion of a voter on the supplementary electoral roll into the primary electoral is provided under Section 15 of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, these regulations also make it clear that the Registrar – usually a member of the Election Commission – has the right to ask the objector for more information regarding the nature of the objection.

    Article 15 (5) states: “Upon receipt of an objection under this regulation, the Registra may, if he is of the opinion that the particulars given in the objection are insufficient, request for further information from the objector who shall furnish the information within seven days from the date he receives such request.”

    The Election Commission must not allow objections to take place when so little proof has been furnished on the part of the objector. Instead of wasting the time of the newly registered voter, the EC should ask for more proof from the objector before allowing the objection to get to the public inquiry stage.

    I was also surprised to see that the Election Commission did not order the objector to pay the objectee the maximum amount of two hundred ringgit as compensation for any loss of time or inconvenience caused under Article 18 of the regulations. Many of these voters took time off work and had to travel to Shah Alam for the public inquiry. One voter even had to drive back from Kuantan, where he is working in a public hospital, in order to prove that he is a legitimate voter in the N55 Dengkil constituency. Voters coming from places such as Sabak Bernam and Hulu Selangor, which are far from the EC’s office in Shah Alam, may not be able to cover their expenses and time lost even with the maximum RM200 compensation. Instead, the EC asked the objector to pay RM100 for each failed objection. (See Appendix 2 below)

    In addition, the EC also failed to ask the objector to pay the objectee on the spot. Rather, the objectees were asked to fill in their details on a piece of paper by a person acting on behalf of the objector. When I asked the EC officer in charge why the objector could not pay the objectee on the spot, he replied that the EC had no power to compel the objector to do so. This is also grossly unfair to the objectee since there is no guarantee that he or she will be paid even the RM100 for the inconvenience and time lost off work.

    What the EC needs to do is to amend the maximum fine to a higher amount, in order to dissuade individuals and groups from making spurious objections to otherwise legitimate voters in their respective areas and that this compensation must be paid on the spot if the objector is not able to find any concrete reasons to object to the inclusion of these voters to be included in the primary electoral roll.

    It is hard to resist from speculating that this is part of a desperate attempt by UMNO to win back some of its state seats by objecting to voters whom they feel are much more likely to vote for the non-BN parties. When I was at the Selangor EC’s office during the public hearing, I met two UMNO representatives – one from the Paya Jaras state seat and the other from the Dengkil state seat.

    The Election Commission must carry on its own due diligence and put its foot down so that these spurious objections will not take place in the future. They can do this by asking for a much higher burden of proof from the objector as to the basis of the objections, and also by increasing the maximum amount of compensation to be paid on the spot if the objector’s reasons are found to be without basis.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix 1: Objection to Leong Yung Hong using the reason “Pemilih Tidak Boleh DiKesan”

    Appendix 2: Decision by the EC to ask the objector to pay the objectee RM100 only

  • Election Commission (EC) Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, should focus on the proposals of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reform rather than the proposal of Ridhuan Tee

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 5th of May, 2015

    Election Commission (EC) Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, should focus on the proposals of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reform rather than the proposal of Ridhuan Tee

    It was reported in the media that EC Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, is studying Ridhuan Tee’s proposal that candidates who want to stand for elections must have at least an SPM credit in Bahasa Malaysia (BM). I strongly suggest that the EC uses its time to focus on the studies that the EC promised it would conduct following the proposals of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reform.

    Following the publication of the findings of the PSC on electoral reform, the EC chairman published a response on the 19th of April, 2012. Among the promises made by the EC chairman was that the EC would study in greater depth and detail, including from the constitutional, legal, regulatory, technical and managerial angles, the recommendations that could not be implemented in time for the 13th general elections.

    The recommendations which require a more careful study include (i) the preparation of guidelines and procedures for a caretaker government (ii) the possibility of automatic registration of eligible voters (iii) the proposal to separate the main functions of the EC namely the registration of voters, the conduct of elections and the redrawing of electoral boundaries (iv) the proposal to have at least one third of parliamentary seats from Sabah and Sarawak (v) the possibility of improving or changing our current First-Past-the-Post electoral (FPTP) system to a mixture of FPTP and Proportionate Representation (PR) or a strictly PR system.

    More than 3 years after the response issued by the EC Chairman, we have not seen any of these studies being published or even publicly discussed by the EC.

    Rather than putting effort into studying the Ridhuan Tee’s proposal, the EC should instead deliver on its promises made more than 3 years ago, which is to publish its findings and studies on the specific recommendations made by the PSC on electoral reform as highlighted above.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Reference: Kenyataan Media Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya Malaysia 19 April 2012

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