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“Increased police presence at elections wasteful”

PETALING JAYA: 1 June 2009: Increased police presence during the by-elections since the March 2008 general election is both unnecessary and wasteful, the National Institute for Electoral Integrity (NIEI) said.

NIEI executive director Amin Iskandar said the trend of deploying large numbers of police officers to a by-election only appeared to begin after the general election last year, starting with the Permatang Pauh by-election in August 2008.

“Before the general election, we didn’t seem to have this kind of situation. Even the general election itself wasn’t so bad,” he said of the use of traffic police, the Federal Reserve Unit and the Light Strike Force.

Amin said traffic police created jams, causing unhappiness to locals, and the presence of FRU or riot police gave the impression that Malaysia was unsafe.

“Malaysia is a safe country and not like some other countries where NIEI has observed elections in, like Afghanistan or Sri Lanka, where heavy police presence is more justified,” Amin told The Nut Graph in a phone interview today.

Police presence amid Pakatan Rakyat supporters on nomination day in Penanti, 23 May

“Why is the government doing this? To make voters afraid? To make the government look strong? We don’t know, but we question [it] because it is unnecessary,” he said.

In a press statement today, the poll watchdog noted that police presence on polling day in the Penanti by-election yesterday was also high, despite Barisan Nasional not contesting the seat.

Amin said police were fewer on nomination day and throughout the campaign period, and questioned why they increased in number on polling day.

“In all polling centres observed, police deployed units of Light Strike Force equipped with riot gear [who were] stationed at every entrance of the polling stations, raising the question of its necessity,” Amin said.

Penanti is the sixth by-election since the 2008 general election. The seventh will be Manik Urai on 14 July, which is being called after the PAS assemblyperson Ismail Yaacob died.

It reportedly cost RM15 million to deploy over 3,000 police personnel to the Kuala Terengganu by-election held on 17 Jan. The campaign period lasted 11 days.

In the Penanti poll, NIEI also observed that eight voters at Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) Jit Sing in Berapit found their names missing from the electoral roll. The electoral watchdog took to task the Election Commission which blamed voters for being “last-minute”.

“It shows that the EC was not ready to handle such problems despite promising that all complaints would be dealt with according to the due process of law,” NIEI said in its press statement.

Further recommendations by the poll watchdog included a stop to the provision of transportation for voters by political parties to and from polling stations. The NIEI also said the EC should introduce the use of indelible ink in all upcoming elections to enhance credibility of the electoral process.

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