The Election Commission Explains
KUALA LUMPUR 14 NOV (New AFP) - Faced with a rising tide of criticism, the Election Commission Chairman, Datuk Omar Mohammad Hashim, called a press conference today to explain the inner workings of the Commission to the public.
Denying that the Commission is dragging its feet over the inclusion of 650,000 new voters into the electoral rolls, Datuk Omar explained that the eight-month delay is inevitable for several reasons.
"First of all, we had to debug all our computers for the Y2K bug. This was necessary as the elections might have been called next year for all we know. Specially prepared insecticides, bearing SIRIM's stamp of approval, had to be ordered. These were mixed with water and then sprayed into all our computers so as to destroy all Y2K bugs and their eggs."
According to Datuk Omar, most of their computers are running very slowly as a result of this treatment. In fact, many of them are not running at all.
"Secondly, we found that the dreaded Nipah virus had infected several of our computers in Negri Sembilan and Perak. How they transferred from pigs to computers only the Health Minister can explain. As a safety precaution, we had to send all our computers in these two states to be crushed. As a result, we are facing a shortage of computers."
Datuk Omar further explained that the Election Commission was having severe difficulties finding suitable skilled persons to do its work because of widespread rumours regarding the existence of phantom voters. He said, "Many people think of these phantom voters as ghosts, hantu, orang minyak and pontianak, so they are too frightened to come and work for us. As such, we have had to rely on old retired people who can't be bothered because they have already got one foot in the grave. As you can imagine, their computing skills aren't really the best, despite all the effort we put into training."
In a light moment, Datuk Omar laughingly recalled how some old ladies were so frightened when introduced to the mouse that they stood on chairs, shrieking loudly. Because of arthritic fingers, many could only type at the rate of about one character per minute. Still others dropped coins into the floppy disk drive every time they were told to "save."
According to Datuk Omar, whenever a phantom voter is discovered, he or she has to be contacted for a thumb print. This takes a lot of time as they generally leave no addresses, so bomohs have to be used to effect communication.
Given all these difficulties, Datuk Omar feels that the Election Commission is doing the best it can. He asked the public and Opposition to be patient, pointing out that so far, no Barisan Nasional politician has complained about the slowness of the process.
Datuk Omar also denied vigorously that the Election Commission was obeying a directive from Mahathir when it opted for the shortest campaigning period ever of only eight days. He clarified that the Commission does not have to wait for directives; instead, it anticipates the prime minister's wishes by carefully reading his statements in the NST, Star and Utusan. "In this way, we do our job to the best of our abilities," he said, "to ensure that the next elections will be the best, fairest and most successful -- for BN, that is."
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