A major change of our electoral system?

In a short span of 18 months, we have had 10 by-elections in our country. And the latest one at Kimanis, Sabah whereby the previous results were nullified for election process discrepancies. I am not writing about the details of the Kimanis by-election, but rather about our political system in Malaysia.

Throughout the 10 by-elections, the focus has only been on two major political coalitions in our country, as everyone knows, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan. In fact, most of the time it has been the contest between these two forces. There might be some changes of the member organization in the political coalition or changes of name throughout, but more or less, it is still the similar political groups.

A third force or an independent political party hardly grows into a major force.

Other than the general political mindset of Malaysians, I believe that the Westminster political system in some way has prevented a new political party to grow in a major force.

The Westminster system is a parliamentary system that was developed in England that is now practiced in many former British Empire colonies. Since Malaysia earned its independence in 1957, we have since then used the Westminster model.

Traditionally, the Parliament members are elected using first-past-the-post from single-member districts. Some new hopeful political parties may garner significant support from the voters, but probably not enough to past-the-post to win in the constituencies. In the end, despite getting votes, they are still nothing if they couldn’t win any seats.

Even if they do win, the amount of seats that these smaller parties obtain may not be significant to make an impact in the Parliament. With such difficulties, the political parties do not have the stamina or resources to survive, and they end up joining forces with either one of the coalitions.

In many parts of the world that practices Westminster or similar model of elections, there will only be two major parties struggling for power.

Malaysian politics has been a struggle between Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional, while in the United Kingdom, it is between the Conservatives and Labour. 

Couple of months back, I heard about the Malaysian election commission putting into discussion the possibility of making major changes in our election system. One of them is to introduce the idea of proportional representation.

For those who are hearing proportional representation for the first time, it is an electoral system in which an electorate is reflected proportionately in the elected body. It can be elected through a party-list, single transferable vote or mixed-member proportional representation.

In short, a voter will vote for an individual candidate in his or her constituency and also another vote for a political party. 

The members of Bundestag, the Parliament of Germany is a nation that uses mixed systems. 

598 of them are elected from party lists proportional representation. 

In Germany’s proportional representation, parties that gain more than 5% of the votes are allocated seats in the Bundestag, with the number of seats depending on the votes that the party gains. For example, if the party gains 10% of the votes, that means the party will have 60 members in the Bundestag.

I would say it is a good initiative by the Election Commission to bring up the idea, although I still have doubts that it will happen anytime soon.

To see it happen will need a huge political will, as if it is implemented, the two big coalitions will have to risk their seats being taken by smaller parties.

To move the nation forward is not only about the change of government policies, but perhaps our political and electoral system.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 28th January 2020.

Our privacy in a new Malaysia?

Smartphones, social media and technology have become part of our lives. I simply cannot imagine any of us able to live a day without using any gadgets. Imagine what was the first thing that we do when we wake up in the morning, we check our smartphones and social media. When we drive out from home and we forgot our smartphone, even the charger or power bank, we will definitely turn around and get it. Smartphones have changed our lives. That is our lives in the current era. 

But there are always trade-offs with things that we love. For smartphones and social media, we are giving away our personal data and information. Everytime we use it, it collects data from us. The phone numbers that we call or receive from; our text messages; our locations; what have we browsed in the internet; our photos, videos and depending on what apps we are using, our private information such as financial data, passwords, schedules could be accessible to certain people.

Privacy has been a worldwide concern which many tech companies were created to protect more personal privacy. Even the iPhone is using privacy as its unique selling point in their latest model.

But it seems this privacy issues has just recently grabbed the attention of Malaysians last week when the MACC commissioner, Latheefa Koya released a so-called wiretapped phone conversation that is assumed to be the former Prime Minister, his wife and other government officials.

This creates a question on how secure our privacy is. Bear in mind that this wiretapped phone conversation is deemed to be five years ago. Either there are a lot of wiretapped data being kept knowingly or the government has the ability to retrieve such data even if it is years back. And yet many of us are criticising China for their lack of privacy. Is our government protecting the privacy of its citizens? China is known for the government’s implementation of mass surveillance which is a network of monitoring systems to ‘supervise’ the lives of their citizens. While Malaysia may not be as advanced as that, to what extent is the government monitoring our lives?

Some may argue that this is important for the case. Yes, I agree that it could be a clue to the investigation of cases related to the former Prime Minister.

But what if this happens to you? I do believe that you are not a criminal or against any laws. So what if it was a private conversation between you and your business partners discussing business strategies being wiretapped and being released to your competitors? What if your intimate conversation between you and your spouse were released unknowingly? What if you were sending your bank pincode to your wife or husband?

Let’s say if you have nothing to hide and you have no issue of your phone calls being wiretapped. You’re innocent, so what are you afraid of? But why is this information being released now?

The former PM was arrested by the MACC on July 2018, trials and investigations have begun since then. Why didn’t the MACC find such information back then? Does MACC need such a long period to obtain the information? Is MACC that inefficient?

Even if they have found a clue now, why does the MACC commissioner, Latheefa Koya have to release it publicly in a press conference? What is the motive? She graduated with a Bachelor of Law in 1997. For so many decades she has earned a degree in law, and doesn’t she understand the term sub judice? Isn’t the case under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere? Or is she bringing the case to the court of public opinion?

Making me question the motive even more is the fact that she is also famous for being a human rights activist. For those who know about Article 12 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

For someone who has fought so much for human rights, doesn’t she know about this declaration? I have doubts. Isn’t she going against human rights now?

Oh, and so happened it is the beginning of the Kimanis by-election, and it made everyone discuss it. Whether what is the motive, you think about it.

The timing, our privacy, a new Malaysia? We have to figure it out.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 14th January 2020.