KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — The Election Commission’s (EC) former chairman has told the court that he had never approved the regulating body’s destruction of its records of voter addresses.
Tan Sri Ab Rashid Ab Rahman, who was both the EC secretary from 1979 to 1995 and its chairman from 2000 to 2008, disputed the EC’s claim that it had destroyed the addresses of voters — including 136,272 Selangor voters who were listed without addresses in the electoral roll used for an 2016 redelineation exercise.
Ab Rashid noted that the EC has an administrative duty — as an institution tasked with ensuring integrity and transparency in elections — to always keep voters’ addresses, saying that he was “shocked” at EC’s claim that such addresses were not relevant in the redelineation process and had been destroyed.
He pointed out that the EC’s commissioners’ consent and approval is mandatory for the destruction of any voter information from its records and systems, especially for such important information like voter addresses.
“As secretary and chairman, I never approved, neither was I aware of any request for the destruction of addresses of voters,” he said in an affidavit that was read out in court today, having noted that such approvals must be done through a meeting which must be recorded with meeting minutes.
He also said voters’ addresses are crucial as the EC needs to use them when sending out letters to voters to inform them and seek clarification of information such as their voting constituencies, believing their destruction would be “illogical”.
“A letter cannot reach an individual voter if the Election Commission only possesses that voter’s locality. It is thus illogical for the Election Commission to destroy the only means of direct communication with individual voters,” he said.
“I was in charge when the migration of voter information to a computerised system took place on or around the 2002. I verily believe that there was no decision or policy which resulted in the destruction of addresses of voters from such migration,” he added, refuting the EC’s previous claim that information such as voters’ addresses was lost when it switched from a manual system to a digital system.
Ab Rashid also disputed the EC’s claim that it no longer possessed the locality codes and voter names that were used in the 1994 and 2003 redelineation exercises, noting that such information was contained in electoral rolls that were used in the redelineation.
“This electoral roll is thus a very important document and must be kept by the Election Commission for future references. Throughout my tenure, I have never instructed anyone to destroy the electoral roll used in the 1994 and 2003 delimitation exercises,” he said, further stressing that he had never approved and was not aware of any request to destroy the locality codes and voter names.
A locality is a sub-unit of a polling district, which forms a constituency when combined with other districts. The Selangor government has questioned how the EC could correctly assign voters their new polling districts if it does not have their addresses, which would be used to determine their locality.
Ab Rashid also disputed the EC’s justification that it no longer had the locality codes as it was required — under Regulation 10 of Election (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 — to revise electoral rolls every three months.
“This is simply illogical. It is merely a process of updating. It does not involve the destruction of the previous electoral rolls.
“I never approved, neither was I aware of any destruction of these previous electoral rolls,” he said, believing that the EC still keeps a record of previous editions of electoral rolls despite having updated them.
Ab Rashid concluded that he felt the EC’s claims are “highly questionable”, saying that he believed there was a “lack of candour and transparency” from them and that he expected them to assist the court in the interests of justice.
Ab Rashid was not present today, but Selangor government’s lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan had read out most of his affidavit in the High Court today.
Ambiga had read it out while presenting arguments on one of four grounds for the Selangor government’s lawsuit, arguing that the EC had acted unconstitutionally by using a “defective” electoral roll containing 136,272 voters without their corresponding addresses listed.
Today is the continued hearing of the Selangor government’s legal challenge against the EC’s proposed redelineation exercise, which the state government said is unconstitutional and should be declared invalid.
The lawsuit was filed last October 19 against the EC, the EC chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah and EC secretary Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh over the alleged unconstitutional redelineation exercise — which includes the renaming of constituencies and the transferring of voters through the redrawing of voting boundaries.
Hearing before High Court judge Azizul Azmi Adnan resumes this afternoon.
Later in the afternoon, Ambiga noted that the EC had chosen not to file any documents to answer Ab Rashid's affidavit, adding they had not denied his remarks or produced any evidence to refute him.
"We ask the court to draw the conclusion that they have documents that they are not producing and therefore an adverse inference ought to be drawn," he said.