KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 — The Election Commission (EC) allegedly attempted to bar Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan from speaking about politics at a church in Seremban today, even threatening legal action against the polls reform activist.
Writing about the incident on her Twitter account, the Bersih 2.0 co-chairman said during the event at the Church of Visitation, an officer with the EC told her she could be charged under Section 27 of the Election Offences Act 1954.
"SPR officer came to me and said no poetical speeches or they would charge me. I said go ahead," she wrote, using the Malay acronym for the EC. Ambiga later corrected her posting to read "political speeches".
According to the well-known former Bar Council president the section of the law used by the officer was only applicable to candidates standing for election.
"I am not one," Ambiga (picture) pointed out in another posting.
Section 27 of the Election Offences Act 1957 stipulates that: "Every person who commits an illegal practice shall, on conviction by a Sessions Court, be liable to a fine of five thousand ringgit and, subject to any specific provision to the contrary in any written law relating to any election, shall by conviction until the expiration of five years from such conviction become incapable of being registered or listed as an elector or of voting at any election under this Act or of being elected at any election, and if at that date he has been elected at any election, his seat shall be vacated from the date of such conviction."
Ambiga added that in her response to the "high handed" officer, she suggested that the EC act on vote-buying and other polling discrepancies.
Despite the EC "intrusion" and heavy police presence, however, Ambiga said the event, a talk on voters rights, went on smoothly.
"Seremban rocks!" she concluded.
The EC has repeatedly warned Ambiga and the polls watchdog group Bersih 2.0 not to disrupt the coming election, alleging that the group's campaign to employ citizen observers would only hamper the polling process.
A total 13,268,002 Malaysians registered on the roll and are eligible to vote in the 13th general elections, touted to be a tight race between a stronger three-party opposition pact and the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition for federal power.
Of that figure, 12,992,661 voters will cast their ballot on May 5 while Malaysians registered to vote by post, including those living and working abroad, will get to cast their ballots earlier on April 28, a Sunday.
The EC has listed 2,954 Malaysians abroad as absentee voters.
Security personnel and their spouses from the armed forces and police force are also eligible to vote by post. The military voters number 161,251 while policemen make up 111,136 votes.
BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the dissolution of Parliament on April 3, four years to the date from when he took office in 2009, replacing Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as prime minister mid-term after the Penang lawmaker led Barisan Nasional (BN) to its worst performance since 1963.
The 13-party coalition lost its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament as well as five states in Election 2008.
A total of 222 parliamentary and 505 state seats will be contested. Sarawak will sit out this round of elections as the Borneo state went to the polls in 2011.