Categorised | Letters to the Editor

“Religion”: Error in e-census form?

I WISH to draw to the public’s attention to a possible glitch in the e-census. An answer I clicked for the category “religion” was different in the PDF copy I printed. Thinking I may have made a mistake, I reviewed my answers and confirmed it was not my error. When I sought an explanation, the supervisor of the census takers for my area confirmed having received another complaint on the same problem two weeks ago. The supervisor added that she had reported the issue to the Statistics Department.

If that were true, why wasn’t it corrected for a whole two weeks? How many more people would have unwittingly assumed the computerised process would record their answers faithfully, as I almost did were it not for a note on the final page prompting a PDF check before submitting the form?

While my problem was eventually rectified – I received a polite call from the department asking me to try the e-census again, and this time it recorded what I inserted – I wonder whether it has been truly corrected in a fresh form.

So, although this comes at a cost to my privacy, I would like to call on others who are planning to use the e-census to try an experiment without submitting their form: Click “no religion” under the “religion” category and see whether you get the same answer in the PDF. Originally, mine recorded it as “other religion”.

I have not received any satisfactory explanation from the Statistics Department on how such a mistake could have happened, and why nothing was done although another complaint had been lodged earlier.

This casts serious doubts on the integrity of the census undertaking for which citizens are asked to be honest in giving their details. Yet whether the authorities are capable of accepting the truth appears questionable.

Chuah Siew Eng,
Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur
19 Aug 2010

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9 Responses to ““Religion”: Error in e-census form?”

  1. dee says:

    Does that mean that everyone in Malaysia MUST have a religion? Mind you, there are people in Malaysia who do not subscribe to the popularly known established religions like Islam, Christian, Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. How about the indigenous people who are animistic? And those who prefer to be atheist?

  2. Kong Kek Kuat says:

    My my… we are all extremely suspicious of the government in any issue, aren´t we?

    Here, we are suspicious of the government´s intention… maybe the government might manipulate the figures to show that certain things are more/less in order to put forth certain agenda?

    And the government is wondering why the people are generally moving away from BN.

  3. voster says:

    Recognising atheism would be seismic shift for this government.

    After all, it’s in the Rukunegara no?

    The last thing the government wants is headlines screaming “Number of Atheists Rise from 0% to 2%”.

    • Sean says:

      It’s not only in the rukunegara, it’s missing from the Constitution:

      Article 3 says you can practice Islam or another religion in peace and harmony. I guess you don’t practice a religion at a risk to either your peace, your harmony or both.

      Article 11.2 says you cannot be asked to pay tax for another citizen’s religion. I see plenty of money being spent on religion by the government, yet I do not have religion – where’s my rebate? I don’t really want a rebate, but I’d like to see the accounts – if they spend one sen on religion, part of that sen is mine and they’re in contravention of the Constitution. Unless Malaysians are being visited in the dead of night by their respective imams, pastors, swamis and reincarnated relatives with a tax assessment and a copy of Article 11.2, and I’m the only one sleeping soundly.

      I declared myself a Jedi on the 2001 UK census. When I applied for my daughter’s MyKid I told the clerk I was a Jedi but they said it wasn’t an available option on their system. To be fair to them, they did check the computer and ask a supervisor. I don’t feel as though my rights under Article 3 are affected, since my Jedi practice is the same here as it would be in the UK. I am slightly concerned that no tax money I have paid is going to The Force – after all, if they don’t record it on official documents, how can they allocate funds for it?

  4. nik says:

    I’ve completed and submitted the hard copy and reading this now makes me wonder if during ‘data entry’ by the Census Bureau I may then find myself practising ‘other religions’ other than what I stated, or even earning a different level of income etc etc etc.

    Some may say there is an inherent suspicion of the government, but mine would be the worry of lack of quality controls skewing the data completely and rendering it useless – case in point being the complaints by some (as quoted) who said that they were just asked to answer 4 questions out of the many in the census form! In these cases what happens to the rest of the answers? Did the survey taker then just ‘fill in the blanks’ as they pleased? What are the checks to ensure the census was even filled correctly?

  5. joe says:

    It might just be a programming mistake. I don’t think the government gives a hoot if you go and pray at a molehill, or don’t pray at all. Your neighbour might, though.

    Knowing how the process works, they had to make a call, call the technician the site was contracted to, get the database fixed and tested again and finally get the website back to production. Could take 2 weeks, if the contracter is slow.

    • kiwi says:

      When I register to be a voter the lady at the counter said I can’t put “no religion” as my religion. Do we need 2 weeks to change a line of code for the e-census?

  6. Richard Loh says:

    After reading from various sources on the census, I find that it is not done based on standard questioning.

    I was asked nothing more than the names of occupants, education background and lastly, religion. When I told her that I am a free thinker, she was completely stunned and do not know what to tick on the form.

    I saw the form was at least a few pages but that is all she asked me. I was left wondering, what a waste of time and money that to carry out this census.

  7. Farouq Omaro says:

    Talking about religion on forms, I don’t see anywhere in the Registration of Births and Deaths Ordinance (1951) of Sabah where it says religion must be recorded. However the new birth certificates issued by the Registrar of Births now include religion. Is this legal?


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