Voice of China

Again, some singers that have impressed me this week, and the last. But I still really like 姚貝娜 and 萱萱 from the first two weeks (and they’re both on the same team!).

Trans-Pacific Partnership Debate

tppdebate

I attended the TPP debate, as a last-minute panelist.

I only got to raise two points – that there is no real information available; and that the intellectual property chapter will make life difficult for all of us. The latter was to rebut the point raised by the other side that the IP issues are small as Malaysia’s IP industry is a miniscule portion of our economic pie.

Yes, while our IP industry is small, the effects of the restrictive IP requirements will affect every single Malaysian.

Our Copyright Act was amended last year, and it included some DRM-like provisions, which would make it unlawful to circumvent any sort of technological protection measures in place. The fines are up to RM500k maximum.

If someone owns a DVD player in Malaysia, I will bet that it is a region-free player, even if it comes from a known brand. I know this because I have asked the guys who sell these things at the store. Even if they slap a Region 3 logo on the box, it’s still region-free inside.

This makes almost every single one of our DVD players, unlawful.

One other point that I did not have the time to elaborate upon, was the issue of parallel imports. I’m not sure if many Malaysians know this but, the price of original DVD/Bluray overseas is cheaper than pirated copies in Malaysia. There is plenty of room for arbitrage in this market.

Well, it was a fun experience overall.

PS: Our side won the debate, and I got a little pen-holder souvenir as a prize. Yeay!

GE13 Experience

By a stroke of luck, my schedule was totally clear for the two weeks between nomination and polling day for GE13. As my good friend was running, I decided to get involved directly and helped out where I could.

Nomination Day
I returned to KL the night before nomination day and went to the nomination centre in the wee hours of the morning. Little did I know that a lack of rest was going to be the norm for the next two weeks. I happily took photographs and revelled in the carnival atmosphere that is nomination day.

Work Starts
Work began almost immediately after. As I was a little late to volunteer to be part of the team, I just told them that I was up for any sort of grunt work. I wasn’t too picky but I did hope that they would not make me carry tables and chairs.

In the end, I ended up assisting in miscellaneous matters pertaining to Polling, Counting and Barung Agents (PACABA). It went from merely signing volunteers up, but quickly escalated to administrative work when they discovered I could work a spreadsheet. Later, after they discovered that I could work efficiently with a spreadsheet, I ended up doing the PACA scheduling for two whole DUNs.

I have to say that dealing with people has never been my strong point. And when dealing with the hundreds who had volunteered to be PACABA, I did not like the way things were going. We had to deal with all kinds of people from the most demanding to the most flexible.

Over the last week or so, I kept asking myself if people understood the meaning of the word – volunteer. As I understood it, when you volunteer, you volunteer. That was the way I had approached it. I hardly stepped into my office the last two weeks and I have a back-log of email to attend to.

When I did the scheduling for the PACABA, I tried my very best to cater to the various requests by the volunteers. The most ‘troublesome’ group was a group of eight young people. We called them the KKK group because of their surnames. They insisted on being grouped together due to transportation issues. I kept asking myself whether they drove a mini-bus or something capable of carrying so many people around.

All that said, I have to add that I was also mindful of the fact that we had volunteers who were willing to travel from as far as Shah Alam to go all the way to the other end of Selangor to volunteer. That was some serious dedication. So, I tried my best not to schedule these people for the morning slot.

Anyhow, I was quite surprised but I did manage to schedule most people into their desired groups, times and centres. It took me a whole afternoon and evening to do it but I managed to slot almost 300 people into their respective duties and stations.

Then, came the headache.

One of our PACAs got detained by the police and spent 7-hours in the station and was subsequently charged with an election offence a mere two days before polling day. While we did not anticipate this, we were quite glad that we picked the right person for the role.

People started dropping out. Some simply chickened out while others were dropped due to various issues such as missing tags, forms, etc. Thankfully, we had also kept a sizeable group of volunteers on reserve to be slotted in where gaps appeared. But by and large, the volunteers hunkered down and pressed on despite the challenge.

We also had to physically sort out the various photos, tags and forms of every person. We had volunteers to help out as well and I set up a system to get it all done within half a day. Again, we were blessed because none bar one of our primary volunteers had issues with their tags.

Polling Day
Finally, polling day arrived and my work was about to get a lot more interesting. As I was quite familiar with the overall PACA operations, I was assigned to be one of the monitors travelling around the different centres to check on things. I visited several schools on my own and helped spot a few problems.

Most of the day went without much incident. There were a few minor issues and hiccups but things mostly proceeded smoothly. But Murphy’s Law being what it is, we had to rush over to a remote school to fire-fight at the eleventh hour – just as the gates closed. Thankfully, it was nothing major either even though it it reach the ears of our candidate.

After that, it was off to the operations centre to wait for the results. My role at this point became administrative again. I would key in the results as we received them. There were people posted at various centres and we worked together to provide our candidate with updated numbers.

The atmosphere at the operations centre was ecstatic. They opened it up to the public and broad-casted results as they came in throughout the country. People were cheering and shouting while enjoying all the roast pork, satay, and other great food provided.

Things took quite a while and we only received our last numbers at 11.30pm as this centre had several recounts where the margin was only 2 votes, which would trigger an automatic recount under the Law. After keying those in, it was off to the tally centre.

At the tally centre, the atmosphere was decidedly different. There was crowd control by the police and people were not allowed in easily. Thankfully we had our tags and I snuck into the the tally centre to witness the process, which turned out to be nothing but sitting around waiting for SPR to key in their results, that took hours.

Finally, at 2.30am, the results were announced and our candidate marched to a resounding victory with a winning margin of over 42k votes.

Job finished!

Final Thoughts
There were many nights, where everyone was short of sleep. I was not spared either – working till 6am at one point and sleeping for a mere 4-hours became the norm. It was all worth it in the end. Our candidate won and I had an experience of a lifetime!

Through this work, I made new friends and possibly a couple of enemies. Experiences like this one do tend to bond or break people. I know fairly well that there are some people that I cannot deal with while there are others whom I would cherish as friends.

Was it worth it? Hell, yeah!

Would I do it again? I honestly don’t know.

PS: I’m keeping some souvenirs from this campaign as a momento. It was a lot of hard-work, damnit!

Polling/Counting Agent Training

I attended a PACA briefing this week and signed up as a volunteer for the second largest parliamentary constituency in Malaysia – Serdang. I would seriously encourage all Malaysians to at least do this thing once in your life-time, to gain a better understanding of the democratic process in Malaysia.

The briefing was divided into two one-hour sessions – the Polling and Counting Agent roles. Most volunteers would have to play both roles on election day.

A polling agent has the duty to be vigilant throughout the polling process to ensure that everything is done according to procedure and to avoid any sort of blatant fraud. A polling agent has to watch how everything is conducted within each voting room and to ensure that the Elections Commissions and the Voters are doing things correctly.

Some highlights about the elections this time around is the use of indelible ink. So, there is now a 2nd clerk in charge of examining and inking the voter’s left pointer from skin, nail, to skin. The idea is that the inking would solve the problem of double voting.

Also, this time around, the EC has opted to use rubber stamp patterns instead of the traditional punch-hole patterns for each ballot sheet. Every room will be given a numbered stamp to ensure the integrity of each ballot sheet and that it belongs to the same room.

As the polling process takes the whole day, there will be shift duties assigned to each polling agent. However, everyone has to serve at least 2-hours as the agent is not allowed to be replaced during the first two hours. Depending on how many volunteers there are, there will either be two or three shifts throughout the day.

A counting agent has the duty to be vigilant throughout the counting process. The counting agent’s job is going to be rather stressful as they would need to scrutinise each ballot to ensure that it is correctly counted and to reject any doubtful votes. Finally, they are also to ensure that the math add up correctly.

Some highlights this time around are that the EC would accept almost anything as a valid vote. While a “cross” was the only acceptable mark in the past, almost anything can be a valid mark this time around – cross, circle, dot, tick, line etc. The only things barred are the use of words and pictures.

So, it would not be a good idea to write curses like “Idiot”, “Liar”, “Cheat” etc on the ballot sheet no matter how cross you may be with the candidate. Just cross out the appropriate box and let it be that.

Also, automatic recounts can be triggered if the winning margin is 4% or less. If the officers are too tired to bother with it, the counting agent may request for a recount, only once though. I sure hope that my station ends up with a nice big margin so that there is no need for any sort of recount.

As there is a risk that the indelible ink may smudge the ballot sheet during voting, a voter whose ballot sheet has been smudged should ask the KTM if they could swap the ballot sheets with a new one. The KTM has the authority to do it as he can mark the smudged ballot sheet as “spoilt”.

Anyway, there is still time to attend training and register as a Polling/Counting Agent with your favourite candidate. Do it today!

My GE13 Nomination Day Experience

This coming 13th General Election (GE13) has been dubbed as the mother of all elections, in Malaysia, for good reason. Whatever happens in the end, I wish the best to all those who are participating in the elections. Personally, I decided that I ought to savour this elections as best I can.

So, first thing I did was wake up at an ungodly hour on nomination day, to travel to the nomination centre for P102 – Serdang. The nomination centre was at the MPKJ Stadium. I was going there to support the candidate who was running there. I was also interested to take part in the atmosphere.

I arrived pretty early – before the crowd arrived. I easily got a parking nearby and proceeded to the stadium. There were small pockets of people milling about and the police were busy executing drills in the stadium compound. Otherwise, everything was real quiet.

Then, the supporters started to arrive. The BN supporters basically invaded the two mamak stalls serving breakfast in the area. Everyone was busy getting a bite before the activity ahead. I’m sure that everyone woke up at ungodly hours too.

The stadium had been nicely divided into two sides. Supporters from each side were encouraged to gather on the appropriate side of the stadium. So, I made my way to the south side of the stadium to gather with some other friends who were already there.

I got there just in time to catch the main procession of supporters coming it. There were huge numbers from PAS who came. I attribute this to the fact that the stadium was located near Bangi, a traditional PAS dominant area. Then, came the DAP procession with my friend in tow.

The atmosphere on the PR side of things was a rather interesting one. For the first time ever, I saw clear signs that both DAP and PAS supporters were truly supportive of each other. Everyone knew about the potential plight that DAP candidates may be forced to run under the moon symbol. So, everyone was supportive.

In fact, things have certainly changed. I saw old Chinese men and women carrying the PAS flag and even cloaking themselves in the flag. This would have been unimaginable, a mere 10 years ago. PAS’s Islamist image has been its bane and a source of tension with the non-Muslim community in Malaysia in the past.

However, things have certainly changed today.

Things continued to stay very calm through most of the nomination period. Supporters from both sides kept to themselves and ran their own little activities. Things only got really boisterous when the candidates were announced and when it was known that DAP would be allowed to run under the rocket symbol.

The unforgiving sun was beginning to get the better of me. I stayed on until all the candidates names were announced. Then, I bade my friends farewell and went off.