Oktober 8, 2009 oleh HermanSamsudeen
Soldiers casting their postal votes at the army training centre in Port Dickson this morning. — Picture by Choo Choy May
By Adib Zalkapli
PORT DICKSON, The Malaysian Insider, Oct 8 — Retired Major Abdul Rashid Hassan Basri had never seen a ballot paper in his 22 years of service.
“We knew the voting was conducted at only one place, by somebody else,” said Rashid, who served in the army from 1972 to 1994.
During that period, five general elections were held but he did not vote or receive the ballot papers.
“Today, we can observe more than 1,000 servicemen casting their votes, but what about the other 3,000, some of them might not even be here; so who is voting for them?,” asked Rashid, who now works for PAS in monitoring the postal voting process.
The controversial postal voting for the Bagan Pinang by-election began this morning with PAS appearing to have backed down from its earlier threat to seek a court order to postpone the polls.
The 4,620 members of the security forces in the state constituency form about one-third of the more than 13,000 total voters. Ordinary voters will vote on Sunday.
Yesterday, the Islamist party met the Election Commissions (EC) to demand the body clean up the postal voter registration, which PAS claimed also contains the name of ordinary soldiers who used to serve in Port Dickson.
“Another question is, there is no way we can tell whether every postal voter has received the ballot papers. The system is still open to abuse,” said Rashid, admitting that postal voting has only slightly improved since his retirement.
“What we want is only transparency, not that we are forcing the servicemen to vote for us,” he told The Malaysian Insider when met at the PAS main operation centre near Kampung Bagan Pinang here.
Previously, PAS had also claimed that members of the security forces were intimidated and forced to back the ruling party during elections.
Party vice-president Salahuddin Ayub, who yesterday said the party was considering taking legal action, now says he considers PAS has been successful in bringing up the case of registration duplication.
“The EC had admitted that cases of retired soldiers still registered as postal voters exist,” said Salahuddin, referring to an Mstar report yesterday where EC’s Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar reportedly said the question of postponing polls does not arise as the voters are not registered twice in the Bagan Pinang constituency.
Not far from the PAS operation centre, a group of soldiers congregated at a stall for an early lunch, talking in loud voices about everything but politics.
A Malay regiment sergeant, who declined to be named and the loudest in the group, dismissed PAS’s claim of irregularities in the process, saying that he was allowed to vote without harassment.
“I voted just like the last time,” said the man in his thick northern peninsula accent, adding that he was not interested in what both Umno and PAS stand for.
“Right now my only concern is my retirement,” he said.
For this by-election, which is widely expected to end PR’s winning streak in all by-elections in the peninsula since last year’s general election, PAS had also demanded for permission to campaign in military camps, but was denied for security reasons.
During last year’s general election PAS garnered 25 per cent of the postal votes in Bagan Pinang.