By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — An Umno lawmaker suggested today there was no issue if the Election Commission (EC) chief were a member of the ruling party, asking if there was “any law prohibiting that.”
Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof and his deputy, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, admitted today they were once and possibly still are Umno members, drawing outrage from Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and electoral reforms movement Bersih on the eve of a planned mass rally for free and fair elections.
“What is the problem if Pengerusi SPR (the EC chairman) is member of Umno? Any law prohibiting that?” Kota Belud MP Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said on micro-blogging site Twitter this evening.
“So when TS Pandikar quit Ketua Umno Kota Marudu whn appointed Speaker, did PR MPs stop accusing him of bias in Parliament?” the Barisan Nasional backbenchers vice chief added, referring to Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia who was made Dewan Rakyat Speaker in 2008.
Both EC leaders had denied being “tied down” or biased due to their affiliation to the senior party in the ruling coalition.
Earlier, Abdul Aziz sought to play down the charge, saying “(I cannot) remember when and where I once became an Umno member, anyone could have put my name in after I graduated from university in the 1970s.”
Wan Ahmad confirmed that he was an Umno member, but like Abdul Aziz, he also claimed he could not recall the Umno branch to which he was registered.
“I don’t know and have never bothered to find out. I am not a politician, I am a government servant and this has stayed till this day,” he said.
Similarly, Abdul Aziz said that being an Umno member did not make him biased in any way when it came to running the EC.
But PKR today said both men should resign immediately and provided details of their Umno memberships, which the opposition party said were still active.
The EC was heavily criticised in the lead-up to Bersih’s rally for free and fair elections on July 9 last year in which tens of thousands flooded the streets of the capital in chaotic scenes that saw over 1,500 arrested, scores injured and the death of an ex-soldier.
Widespread condemnation of the Najib administration’s clampdown saw Putrajaya make major concessions including announcing a bipartisan Parliamentary Select Committee to look into improving the electoral system.
During the committee’s six-month tenure, the opposition accused the EC of not being committed to reforms and eventually rejected the panel’s findings.
Early this month, Bersih, a coalition of 84 civil societies, announced it would hold a sit-in protest at Dataran Merdeka tomorrow, saying the findings of the select committee were disappointing and did not meet its demands for electoral reform.
Abdul Aziz became EC chairman on January 2009 while Wan Ahmad was appointed in 2007.