Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman has expressed disappointment over the performance of the returning officers (RO) in some states in Saturday's nomination period for the 11th general election next week.
He said the non-adherence of stated procedures had resulted in the late compilation of data relating to those contesting in the March 21 election as everything should have been settled by 1 pm if everything had gone according to plan.
Abdul Rashid had this to say when asked on the number of ROs who appeared not to have followed the specified instructions and guidelines of the EC in undertaking their task: "Plenty. In Perak, in Johor. Even in Penang and Sabah also there were those who did not follow instructions. I am completely disappointed with these people."
Speaking at a news conference at the media centre set up on the grounds of the EC headquarters here, he said the thing was that they were senior government officers and yet they seemed to have trouble in following EC instructions.
"They have been trained, given proper guidelines and so on. They have been asked to really look at the checklist at every point. Probably they got (overly) excited," he said.
He described the situation as worse than the nomination process for the previous election in 1999.
Abdul Rashid said contrary to instructions, some of the ROs chose to drive to the state EC office to forward the nomination documents.
"You can imagine the time it will take to go from Grik to Ipoh. And in Sabah, it will take a long time to drive from Kinabatangan to Kota Kinabalu, for example. So this is the kind of problem that we have, instructions which are not followed,"
He also said that the ROs had been furnished with all the necessary equipment to facilitate their task.
"But they don't want to live in this millennium, they are still in the last millennium," he said sarcastically.
When asked whether what transpired today was a taste of what would happen on polling day, Abdul Rashid answered in the negative.
"No. We are going to send lots of messages (reminders) to them," he said.
Abdul Rashid also regretted instances where ROs were reportedly not cooperative with members of the media during nomination.
He also said the EC headquarters received 36 queries from the ROs over whether or not to accept the nomination papers of would-be candidates. Since campaigning had already begun, Abdul Rashid expressed the hope that this would be conducted in a civilised manner.
He reminded all political parties to avoid provocative actions which could land them into trouble.
The EC supremo said the smooth nomination process should be replicated during polling next weekend.
As for the teams set up to oversee the campaigning process, Abdul Rashid told them to act within the confines of the law.
"I don't want them to abuse the powers accorded to them according to the law," he said, adding that they should not be overzealous in performing their duties.
Citing an example, he said they were not supposed to inspect the bases of political parties.
Abdul Rashid expressed satisfaction over the new 50-metre no-go area ruling at the nomination centres, saying that this had allowed nomination to proceed smoothly.
Meanwhile Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate for the Senggarang State constituency, Shamsiah Rashidah Ibrahim blamed the Election Commission's (EC) "vague" regulations as the main reason for the rejection of her nomination papers.
According to her, clause 4(D) of the EC regulations on the supporter and seconder of a candidate according to the area where the candidate is standing was vague and could be interpreted in many ways.
"In Umno, we consider the area as the division and not the State or Parliamentary constituency. The regulation is very vague and I still think my party had not made any mistake," she told Bernama when contacted, here Saturday.
She said the Batu Pahat Umno and its lawyers were studying it and would not hesitate to take the matter to court if they had a case against the EC.
"We are discussing with our division head and several lawyers on the matter," she said.
Yesterday, Shamsiah's candidacy in the Senggarang State constituency within the Batu Pahat Parliamentary constituency was rejected by the EC, enabling PAS candidate Dr Mohd Ramli Mohd Kari to win uncontested in Senggarang.
The loss of the Senggarang State seat to PAS resulted in Johor BN failing to defend its 100 per cent victory in the general election since 1995.
Shamsiah also expressed regret over the different treatment given to her by the EC official as a similar problem was also encountered during the nomination process for BN candidate Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim for the Baling State seat.
"However, the EC official in Baling had relaxed the rule slightly at that time," she said.
Whatever it is candidates should take the initiative to check the nomination forms and study nomination procedures to avoid their candidacy from being rejected, Wanita Umno head Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said.
Expressing shock and dismay over the "loss" of a safe seat (Senggarang) to the opposition, she said the rejection of the BN candidate's nomination papers could have been avoided if the candidate had been more thorough.
She said this when asked to comment on the rejection on Saturday of the nomination papers of the Barisan Nasional (BN) Candidate for Senggarang, Shamsiah Rashidah Ibrahim, as her seconder was not a registered voter in Senggarang.
Rafidah said she had a great shock when informed by the movement's executive secretary that PAS candidate Dr Mohd Ramli Md kari had been returned unopposed in Senggarang.
Rafidah said it was a test for the BN from Allah particularly when it was claimed that the BN would make a clean sweep of all seats in Johor.
"I have always said that until you take the oath, do not think you are already the YB. Everything depends on God," she said.
On the other hand PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has congratulated the Election Commission (EC) for doing a good job during nominations in the 11th general election on Saturday.
"This is a good indication of the democratic practice and I hope no undesirable incidents will occur," he told Bernama here.
Abdul Hadi, when met after delivering a ceramah (talk) at Taman Setia Jaya here Saturday night, said it was heartening that the nominations proceeded smoothly throughout the country without any breach of public order.
He said that the Opposition certainly expected the election to be conducted in a fair manner. Polling has been fixed for Sunday.
Commenting on the victory of the PAS candidate who won the Senggarang state seat unopposed, Abdul Hadi, who is Terengganu Menteri Besar, said that it had further encouraged the party to work harder to capture other states.
As at the dissolution of parliament and the respective state legislatures, Kelantan and Terengganu were under PAS control.
Dr Mohd Ramli Md Kari was declared the winner when the EC rejected the nomination papers of Shamsiah Rashidah Ibrahim of the Barisan Nasional (BN) on technicality.
Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman was right in telling the truth to the public. Thousands of people have been waiting online to see the results of the nomination but the results were never fully updated even at midnight of nomination day.
We now know the culprits, the senior government officers who thought they are good but they are not. These are some example of poor services rendered by the public servants. These are also the bunch of people who rose to the post due to connections with the powerfuls and not through qualification, experience or capabilities. They are the one who tarnished the good name of the civil service.
We also have those who thought they are in power and could take things for granted. When the nomination papers were rejected they gave silly excuses and threatened to take legal action. Go ahead and sue the Election Commission if they want to make a fool out of themselves.
Bravo Election Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman. Bravo Election Commission.