Set up unit to implement election reforms, says ERC boss

Polling station

Electoral Reforms Committee (ERC) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman is a happy man.

Having spent two years researching reforms that would be suitable in Malaysia, his team submitted a report to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin last week with 49 recommendations for electoral changes.

The recommendations include separating the functions of the Election Commission (EC) into three bodies to boost public confidence in the commission; the date of the dissolution of Dewan Rakyat and state assemblies to be set at least six months in advance; ensuring voters cast their votes where they live; and to ensure 30 per cent women representation in the party candidate list.

But he said he would be even happier if the government sets up an implementation unit and if he would finally be able to spend more time at his farm in Semenyih.

Abdul Rashid (AR) spoke to Twentytwo13 yesterday regarding his two-year mission and what should be done moving forward.

The report is finally completed after two years. How does it feel?

AR: I’m happy. As leader of the team, I’m happy we were finally able to complete the report, despite the confinement during the (partial lockdown). That (lockdown) somehow affected our progress. We could have completed the report three to four months earlier. Working from home wasn’t easy.

Now that 49 recommendations have been made, what’s next?

AR: Besides the 49 recommendations, we also submitted our thoughts concerning implementation. We suggested that the government set up an implementation unit under the Prime Minister’s Department and that unit must monitor and assist all the relevant agencies to adopt the recommendations.

I’ll be able to advise them in the early days. We can start with the easier recommendations where it doesn’t require amendments to the constitution.

I don’t know if we are going to have a rough or easy time ahead. It all depends on the will of the government. The political will is there but the willingness to look at the recommendations and willingness to start the implementation of some of the recommendations should at least be indicated.

Within our recommendations, at least 32 matters can be looked into and effort must be put in to implement which can be done within the next three years. If this government is lengthened to the end of that period (no general election in the next three years), we can see some recommendations implemented.

Do you think Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has the will to make these changes? After all, the ERC was set up during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure as Prime Minister when Pakatan Harapan won in 2018.

AR: When I spoke to the prime minister, he didn’t seem very much unwilling. He is quite willing to look into our recommendations seriously. Whether or not he will agree to what we have suggested … well I hope to see a team of implementers.

The ERC will cease to exist by December. What do you hope between now and then?

AR: We will close shop by December and I hope by that time the government has made decisions, especially the setting up of an implementation unit.

I could probably be part of the secretariat. I’ve got good officers whom I hope will be absorbed into the unit. They are good at their jobs, knowledgable and this unit will give them a chance to go further, beyond the recommendation stage.

This will definitely ensure continuity. There will be no problem in identifying problems (laughs).

Since the report is done, you can now finally spend more time at the farm.

AR: (Laughs) Yes, now I can look forward to spending more time on my farm in Semenyih. I’ve also been busy writing articles on politics, elections and democracy.

In fact, I’ve two books which are in the printing stage as we speak. One book, being printed by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, is on democracy and elections in Malaysia.

The other book, which will be ready before nomination day in Sabah (Sept 12), will be about what it takes to run elections in Sabah. It will be a timely read.