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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

> Election Commission must be autonomous

Election Commission (EC) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the country's election system need to be reviewed to give it autonomous power and total control over the election process, the media included.

Speaking on his last day in office after 25 years service, the retiring EC chairman said a review was necessary to stop others from making accusations against the commission.

"EC has to defend itself against accusations that it is toothless. How can we act when the rules do not allow us? The rules are there but our action cannot satisfy everyone," he told reporters at the ground breaking ceremony for the site of the new EC headquarters in Presint 2 here.

The new EC building costing RM70-80 million in the shape of a ballot box is scheduled for completion in two years.

Abdul Rashid, 66, will be replaced by Home Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof effective tomorrow.

His service was extended by another year after Dewan Rakyat passed the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2007 to extend the retirement age for EC members from 65 to 66 years.

Abdul Rashid who had handled seven general elections said EC should be in control during the campaign period telling people what to do and what not to do, and not other authorities.

"EC should be in the position to control the total network of media during elections. It should be able to tell the media their limit and role they can play during elections."

He proposed that a body be created to review the needs of EC and the country's elections laws, although it may take two, three or ten years.

However, it was up to the government whether to accept the concept or not.

"If the government accepts the concept, then it must make appointments but if it wants to wait, then I cannot comment.

"I don't know whether the situation warrants it or not. I am just speaking as a former chairman based on his experience."

Abdul Rashid said he had forwarded the proposal to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and offered himself to be the adviser should the body be created.

He said other countries had similar setups during elections where the EC had full control over the election process, not ministries or departments.

"It existed in other developing countries. I feel we have to follow their foot steps as it is the strengthening of democratic practices."

Abdul Rashid also said he was considering taking legal action against several opposition party members for making personal attacks against him.

He declined to reveal their names but said he had adequate information and proof for his lawyer to act.

"I did not want to sue these people earlier because I did not want to drag the EC into it. Now that I have retired and a free person, I am considering a suit against those who had said so many untruthful and bad things against me," he said - Bernama.