(Also published on Malaysiakini)
The Election Commission (EC) produced a booklet entitled ‘The Truth Behind the Accusations and Lies towards the Election Commission’ on its website. In this booklet, the EC tried to defend itself against 12 allegations made with regard to the electoral roll.
1) The EC has not been consistent in its boundary ‘correction’ exercise.
2) That the EC had deleted 14,577 names in Quarter 2, 2011 because the records of these voters were not active in the National Registration Department (NRD).
3) That the EC should be greatly concerned by the fact that 56 out of the 57 voters registered in the past year in Kampung Melayu Majidee in Johor Bahru did not have house numbers or street names and were foreign-born, meaning the 7th and 8th digits in their IC number is ‘71′.
In this article, I want to show that the EC cannot reassure us that there are no foreigners/non-citizens in the electoral roll because it is the NRD which issues the ICs and not the EC.
Specifically, I want to focus on voters in Selangor without house numbers and street addresses which have been registered by government agencies since the 2008 general election.
What I have found thus far is very disturbing because it points to the presence of government agencies (not the EC) which have been actively registering foreign-born ‘citizens’ who do not have house numbers or street names even though they are located in urban constituencies in Selangor.
And instead of investigating these cases or questioning the NRD and these government agencies, the EC has chosen to stay silent.
The EC assigns a code number to each voter registration application so that it can keep track of these applications. These applications are divided into various categories with a specific letter assigned to each category.
For example, applications which come through the post office electronically start with the letter ‘G’, those which come in through the police start with the letter ‘K’ and those which come in through the army start with the letter ‘Z’.
Table 1 below lists the categories belonging to each letter.
The code number assigned to each new voter registration application is not given to the political parties nor is it publicly displayed during the quarterly electoral roll updates. But this information is recorded by the EC.
In this article, I want to focus on voters in Selangor without house numbers and street names whose applications start with the letter ‘J’, indicating that they have been registered by a government agency which is not the Election Commission.
Informal reports from different sources have indicated that these government agencies include the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Khas (Jasa), a unit under the Ministry of Information and Jabatan Kemajuan Masyarakat (Kemas), a unit under the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development.
The primary reason I chose to focus on applications beginning with the letter ‘J’ is because of the newly-registered voters in the Kampung Melayu Majidee locality in the Johor Bahru constituency, almost all whom do not have house numbers and street names and had application codes beginning with the letter ‘J’.
I choose the state of Selangor because this is expected to be one of the key battleground states which the BN is desperately trying to win back and which Pakatan Rakyat is desperately trying to hold on to.
My methodology was very simple. I managed to obtain a complete electoral roll for Selangor that was updated to Quarter 3 of 2011.
This electoral roll included voter registration application codes for newly-registered voters from 2008 onwards. I filtered out all those applications with Kod 71 in their IC and then narrowed my search to those applications without house numbers and street names.
Out of 506 applications with Kod 71 and without house numbers and street names, 444 or 88% had application codes starting with the letter ‘J’. And almost 80% out of these 506 applications were concentrated in four parliamentary seats – Ampang, Gombak, Kelana Jaya and Serdang.
The EC would of course try to explain this away by saying that they want to empower government agencies to increase voter registration rates across the country. The fact that many of these Kod 71 voters do not have house numbers or addresses is because they live in kampongs without house numbers or street names.
These would not be valid explanations for similar reasons as the Kampung Melayu Majidee case. All of these voters are registered to vote in urban areas and all of them are registered to localities where almost everyone else has a house number and street name.
For example, of the 967 voters registered in the Kampung Sri Gombak Indah locality in the Gombak parliamentary seat, 96% have house numbers and street names. Of those who do not have house numbers or street names, 80% have Kod 71 in their ICs, all of them have voter registration applications starting with the letter ‘J’ (Table 2 below).
What is even more disturbing is that a large number of these applications were submitted at the same time – in March 2011- with the ‘nosiriborang’ numbers running sequentially, meaning that they were most probably registered by the same person from a government agency.
Among these applications, I also found voters with a single name, which raises the question of whether these are similar cases to‘Mismah’, who was alleged to have been recently granted citizenship so that she could be included in the electoral roll. (Table 3 below)
As an additional check, I examined the Quarter 4 (Q4) 2011 electoral roll update to see if there had been new registrations in the localities with a large number of Kod 71 ‘J’ applications without house numbers. My findings confirmed my initial suspicion.
Of those voters in the Q4 2011 update without house numbers, all of them had Kod 71 IC numbers. A sample from Kg Sri Gombak Indah in P98 Gombak is reproduced in Table 4 below.
Unfortunately, I was not able to obtain the registration application code for the Q4 2011 electoral roll update but I am fairly confident that application codes for these voters begin with the letter ‘J’.
Where does this leave us?
Some might say that the small number of voters identified in this article is not a cause for concern given that it is but a small percentage of the 400,000 newly-registered voters in Selangor since the 2008 general elections. This would be a mistake for two reasons.
Firstly, if the NRD can issue ICs to foreign-born ‘citizens’ without proper addresses in urban areas, could it also issue ICs to other individuals with proper house numbers and street names and state codes which do not show that they are not born overseas?
After all, there have been many well-documented cases fitting this description in Sabah under ‘Project IC’ where non-citizens of Indonesian and Filipino descent were given ICs which indicated that they were born in Malaysia.
Could there be a ‘Project IC’ happening right now in Selangor – to give ICs to the many non-citizens who are working in the Klang Valley so that they can vote?
Secondly, if there is a concerted effort being carried out by a government agency (or agencies) to register foreign-born ‘citizens’ without proper IC addresses, could this government agency (or agencies) also register other individuals with proper house numbers and street names and state codes which do not show that they are born overseas?
As of Q3 of 2011, new voter applications with the registration code ‘J’ numbered 42,540 in the state of Selangor, many of them in marginal constituencies.
In other words, what I have discovered here are the more obvious cases, using rather strict criteria – no house addresses, code ‘J’ voter applications, Kod 71 in the IC numbers. There could easily be many other cases of non-citizens being given ICs with proper house address and non-71 state codes and they could easily register through other channels including political parties or by going to the post office.
The cases which can be easily detected are probably the tip of the iceberg.
The EC, instead of shifting the focus to harmless caricatures which appear during the campaign period, should instead do a proper audit of these cases and call out the NRD if it was found that many of the ICs were irregularly issued.
Without these steps, we cannot have the assurance that our electoral roll is not being populated by non-citizens.
ONG KIAN MING is a lecturer and political analyst at UCSI University. He is also the Project Director of the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (Merap).