Taib Mahmud’s BN pretends to hold elections. However 30 years since he took office and nearly half a century since his family gained power in Sarawak a staggering third of the electorate remains excluded from the electoral register.
Mahmud has explained that his government finds it ‘very hard’ to register these people. But, if they can’t even draw up a simple list of voters are they fit to run a market stall, let alone a government?
MAFREL, Malaysia’s respected electoral monitoring body, has been dutifully visiting the voters that Mahmud’s vast state apparatus has found so hard to find and their recent reports on the problems of gaining registration in Sarawak make shocking reading. Tens of thousands of citizens have been excluded from their birthright by the denial of birth and identity certificates, meaning they have restricted access to education and health. Several hundreds of thousands do have identity cards, but have been barred access to the electoral register.
Taib’s tactic is to make registration as difficult as possible by limiting the ways people can sign up and encouraging ridiculous levels of bureaucratic obstruction. Then, if someone does manage to overcome the many hurdles (including the inaccessibility of the registration offices and the many confusing documents that are required get themselves identifications cards and then on to the register) they are then informed that it will take at least 6 months before they actually become eligible to vote! Why? Is Taib frightened at how people might vote? Of course he is. People who have been robbed do not vote for the thief.
Compare Sarawak to the United Kingdom, its democratic model. During the current UK elections TV, radio and newspaper advertisements have reminded people that they can still sign up to vote, even until ten days before the election. And what do they need to qualify? All they have to do is give an address and sign a pledge that they are a British citizen. No documents, no proof, nothing. Every citizen’s equal and fundamental right to a vote is respected.
If it is so easy in the UK, why is it so hard in Sarawak? What is Taib so suspicious of? Is he fearful that if he loses power his corrupt handling of Sarawak’s resources will be exposed and his family’s vast wealth will be given back to the people? The answer is yes, of course he is.