No trial for outstandingly bad Election Commissioners?

No trial for outstandingly bad Election Commissioners?

In 2006, a book by Senator Barack Obama went on sale. Its title was ‘The Audacity of Hope.’ It jumped off the shelves. It was a critical stone on the path Obama built to become President of the USA in 2009.

‘Audacity’ signals courage against great odds.

Obama was inspired by a sermon given by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Wright was inspired by a lecture by Frederick Sampson. Sampson was inspired by a painting by George Watts.

The subject of Watts’ painting was a scarred, bruised, bleeding woman in rags who had found a harp with only one unbroken string. She took the harp and played music to God. She displayed audacity.

Malaysia has a story of greater audacity because the subject is not one person, but hundreds of thousands of Malaysians in yellow.

It is the story of how the people ended 61 years of pseudo-democracy. It is the story of the peaceful, popular uprising of wounded, outraged citizens to reclaim democracy against great odds from seven outstandingly bad (egregious) election commissioners.

Sadly, the story failed to impress three of five retired judges of the EC Misconduct Tribunal.

The five are Tan Sri Amar Steve Shim Lip Kiong (chair), Tan Sri Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha, Tan Sri Zaleha Zahari, Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar, and Datuk Prasad Sandosham Abraham.

The three are Steve, Zaleha and Suriyadi.

The government formed the Tribunal in response to calls by Bersih 2.0, the Malaysian people’s movement for free and fair elections.

When the tribunal was formed in October, six of the egregious commissioners were still in office.

The six are Tan Sri Othman Mahmood, Datuk Md Yusop Mansor, Datuk Abdul Aziz Khalidin, Datuk Sulaiman Narawi, Datuk Leo Chong Cheong and Datuk K. Bala Singam. [Chairman Tan Sri Mohd Hashim Abdullah resigned effective 01 July.]

The day after the Tribunal was announced, five commissioners “resigned.” I use quote marks because they didn’t resign instantly. They offered to leave 10 weeks later. The government accepted their offer. About six weeks later the last of the egregious, Bala, ‘resigned’ similarly.

The Panel’s decision was divided 3-2. Three of the members showed audacity of the wrong kind, exemplified in these words:

The fundamental question today is this; is it in the public or national interest to spend so much time, energy, and expense in going through potentially the whole cumbersome and objective exercise merely to seek the removal of the six commissioners, but they have already removed themselves whether voluntarily or otherwise from the Election Commission.

The answer in my view is obvious; I find no good in the public interest, it would be an exercise in futility.

Steve, Zaleha and Suriyadi viewed the goal of the proceedings woodenly, from within the narrow frame of the Terms of Reference of the Tribunal: the removal of the six commissioners.

Through the narrow frame they could not see the heinous charges of outstandingly bad behaviour arrayed against six men who deceitfully, mockingly and shamelessly served up pseudo democracy. They could not see that the people, through the government, have already committed to lavish ‘time, energy and expense’ on the proceedings.

The three judges had the audacity to say it would be an exercise in futility!

Happily, two of the judges, Jeffrey and Prasad, chose to be dynamic rather than wooden. They recognised that the tightness of the framing moved the larger goal out of focus. They managed to see the principal goal as not ‘removal’ but ‘public interest, authority and law’.

Respectfully, the grounds of the decision to end the probe are wrong-headed. It is not for the Tribunal to decide how to spend public funds. The three judges failed to persuade two of their brethren. They have also failed to persuade me.

I was a member of the Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee (SC) when it called for action against the commissioners. We made the call after deep study and wide consultation. We assessed it to be the will of the people.

The decision of the Tribunal does not change the facts.

The public still believes allowing the egregious commissioners to ‘get away’ through resignations will result in them perpetually denying their wrongdoings.

The public still believes their wrongdoings must be publicly assessed and proven.

The public still believes they must be stripped of their Datuk and Tan Sri titles.

The government must set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to do the work which the Tribunal has declined. Minimally, the RCI must provide grounds for the Sultans and Agung to withdraw the titles of the egregious commissioners.

The government must celebrate the audacity of Malaysians and punish the mendacity (untruthfulness) of the egregious commissioners. The RCI will be a critical stone in the path to democracy. It will be an inspiration for greatness.

By Rama Ramanathan

Rama Ramanathan blogs at and is the spokesperson for CAGED, Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Leaders Online.

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