Saturday, 20 April 2013

GE13: DAP, a clever ruse to kill two birds with one stone? Naughty, dishonest ROS?

A decision by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) not to recognise the DAP's central executive committee due to its controversial party elections held in December last year has kicked up a storm within the party's top brass. 

Lim Kit Siang in tears
A LETTER from the Registrar of Societies (ROS) on Wednesday has become a bone of contention with DAP leaders, who now want to contest the general election using the PAS and PKR symbols.

At an EGM at the party headquarters on Thursday night, the leaders debated the letter from ROS and at a press conference afterwards they slammed the ROS and its “despicable act” to stop the DAP from contesting in the elections.

The ROS letter, DAP claimed, means that its central executive committee (CEC) is now powerless, that its secretary-general Lim Guan Eng cannot sign any letter of authorisation for election candidates and that the DAP can no longer use its cherished Rocket symbol.

The letter, however, merely states that the ROS is studying the party's registration following a dispute among DAP members over the Dec 15 elections.

The letter also says, pending the final disposal of the dispute, the CEC that came into power after the elections is not recognised.

But the DAP seized the letter as an opportunity to grandstand and turn the blade against the Barisan Nasional, claiming that they have been made powerless and unfit to contest in the elections.

Guan Eng was visibly angry and his father, party adviser Lim Kit Siang, was in tears as they announced, with great emotional effect, the alleged import of the letter a day before nominations.

They also issued an ultimatum that the ROS must withdraw its letter by 3pm yesterday or the DAP will contest under the banner of its allies.

Any verbal reassurances by the Election Commission or ROS that the DAP could continue to use its Rocket banner and issue authorisation letters were not good enough.The ROS letter must be withdrawn.

With an eye on the Chinese voters, the DAP has interpreted the ROS letter as it wants and is laying down impossible conditions that government agencies cannot adhere to.

The ROS has been probing a dispute over the Dec 15 CEC elections after several DAP members lodged complaints with the ROS and demanded action.

Their complaints centred on a rectification of the results announced by the party, nearly a month after the party elections, that an error had occurred in the counting of votes using a spreadsheet software.

In the rectification, Guan Eng's political secretary Zairil Khir Johari, who initially lost in the election of 20 CEC members, had actually won the 20th spot.

The party claimed the delay in announcing the new results was because of the holiday season and on learning the mistake, the DAP had bravely faced it and rectified it.

But members cried foul and started going to the ROS, complaining about various shortcomings in the election, including alleging that there was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the results.

They alleged that no Malay candidates had won and that the party leaders saw fit to “elect” one after the elections were long over.

They also alleged that over 700 party members were not notified of the AGM and had not participated and had they voted, the results would have been different.

The DAP members from Sepang, Seremban and Johor have been persistent in their complaints, even bringing their own counsels to the ROS.

Zairil, after his election as a CEC member, was named as candidate for the Bukit Bendera parliamentary seat, vacated by Liew Chin Tong who has moved to contest the Kluang parliamentary seat.

Whether intentionally or not, the ill-timed letter from the ROS has been seized by the DAP for its own grand theatre ahead of nominations today.

Inevitably, the Barisan is on the receiving end of a drama that is played before the Malaysian public, as a case of outright repression of the DAP.

This despite a statement by ROS director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman, issued late yesterday, that the DAP is not de-registered and that the party can use the Rocket symbol.

Deregistration is not a new thing in our politics and has happened many times before, including to Umno in 1988, and if any such calamities were to fall on the DAP, it is not an exception but the rule. It is how the ROS keeps political parties in check.

But for now, the fact remains that the ROS letter does not even mention deregistration but the DAP leaders are stretching it, for their own political purposes, to read what they want into it an act of repression against the DAP.

As such, they say they have no choice but to use the PAS and PKR symbols.

DAP has been grandstanding on using the PAS symbol since last month and PAS has been reciprocating that the DAP is free to use the party's moon symbol.

The political implications of this are obvious the DAP using the PAS symbol will force Chinese voters to view PAS favourably while at the same time dispelling the notion, held among many Malays, that the DAP is Chinese-centric, anti-Islam and anti-Malay.

It's a clever ruse by the DAP, helped along by PAS, to kill two birds with one stone.

COMMENT
By BARADAN KUPPUSAMY
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Naughty, dishonest ROS

QUESTION TIME  It looks like other Malaysian bodies besides those responsible for curbing corruption are being “naughty and dishonest”, the latest being the Registrar of Societies (ROS) which has draconian powers to oversee societies, including political parties.

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud famously (notoriously?) labelled the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) investigation of himself for graft as “victimisation”, and reserved his cooperation because he believed that they have been “naughty and dishonest”.

"They (MACC) don't deserve my cooperation because they have been naughty... and they have not been honest," he said recently.

Change some names, and the DAP is now a victim of “naughty and dishonest” investigation by the ROS. This is likely closer to the truth than the MACC allegations by Taib who continues unscathed despite everything. What’s more, delve deeper into the latest issue and you will wade deep into a conspiracy theory to rival any book by Jeffrey Archer.

NONEThe DAP - yes, to its discredit then - had a “technical glitch” during its December elections for the central executive committee (CEC) which resulted in a minor revision to its election results. The studious ROS began investigations, but only decided not to recognise DAP’s CEC several months later, yesterday - just two days before nomination day. How convenient.

According to DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, the letter was faxed to the DAP headquarters at 5.45pm yesterday in very questionable circumstances.

In a report by Malaysiakini, Lim (above) told reporters that ROS director-general Abdul Rahman Othman had personally met him in his office in Penang on April 5, where the latter agreed to postpone the ‘routine’ investigations in view of the looming elections to May 9, four days after the elections.

“Abdul Rahman personally guaranteed to me that he would not make any decision until investigations are complete, and until he obtains a full report from his investigator.”

But then the letter not to recognise the DAP’s CEC still came.

Lim has cried foul, and indeed that is what it is, coming so late in the day when the ROS has had many months to investigate the “technical glitch”.

Meantime, the Election Commission said that the DAP will be able to field candidates as usual on nomination day, regardless of the Registrar of Societies' decision to suspend the party's central committee.

'No comfort at all for DAP'

Should that not give some comfort to DAP that it can contest under its own banner and put up its own slate? Apparently not, and here is where the conspiracy and plot thickens and links up with the other ingredients for a good, juicy stew.

What gives? If the ROS does not recognise the DAP’s CEC and has given notice to the DAP that it does not recognise the CEC before nomination day, how can the CEC make any legally binding decision on its slate of candidates? There is the possibility that its entire slate of candidates can be disqualified on nomination day itself.

Even if they are not on nomination day tomorrow, post-elections, it is possible to challenge the legality of DAP’s candidates. A compliant judiciary could negate the results of elections where DAP candidates stood. And if DAP MPs and state assemblypersons are suspended on Monday May 6 - the day after the elections - via court injunction, power can’t be handed over.

mahathir um forum 140313 01Thus far, three agencies are implicated in this conspiracy: The ROS with its draconian powers granted during ex-PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s (right) dictatorial grip on the country when he tightened laws for societies to bring them under control; the supposedly independent, but not so independent Election Commission and its assurance which may lull DAP into complacency; and a compliant judiciary, courtesy again of Mahathir, which may be willing to play ball.

The bigger question is, who is the puppeteer pulling the strings behind the curtains? And are they actually so desperate and so fearful of losing as to resort to such measures to deny free and fair elections to remain in power? Indeed, is there such a plot in the first place?

Obviously, the DAP cannot and will not take chances, and unless it has iron-clad assurances that it can use its own logo and put up its own candidates, it will go ahead with its plans of standing under the PAS banner in the peninsular, and PKR for Sabah and Sarawak.

If they have to, it will be a major challenge, but the plot will backfire for those who may have engineered this whole thing. It will only help to push the somewhat disparate partners in Pakatan Rakyat even closer together and hasten the day when they will all stand under one banner.

And it is going to sicken further all right-thinking, reasonable and responsible Malaysians who badly - very badly - want to see elections fought on even terrain with everyone given equal opportunity to express their views and get their message across. So no one has an unfair advantage or obstacle.

Any measure which further enhances Pakatan Rakyat’s image as the underdog will help the coalition more than it harms.

BY P Gunasegaram
P GUNASEGARAM is founding editor of KiniBiz. He enjoyed reading Jeffrey Archer’s “First Among Equals”, especially the final twist about who would become prime minister.

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