Kota Kinabalu 21/01/2013: Former PBS Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Ariah Tengku Ahmad, 75, is glad that the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Illegal Immigrants in Sabah has at least provided the platform for truth to prevail.
She said if not for the inquiry's testimonies, the reality surrounding the controversial electoral results of the Kawang Constituency in the 1994 State Election was now made known to the world.
She praised the Najib administration for heeding the wishes of Sabahans for the inquiry and said it would help regain the trust of the people. Ariah, who was Kawang Assemblywoman from 1985 to March 1994, lost to then BN-Umno candidate, Datuk Osu Sukam, by a mere 64 votes.
"Winning an election through sheer deceit is no victory but a most dishonourable and condemnable act. Shame on you, Osu.
You did not deserve to win and go on to become the Chief Minister.
"Through fraudulent means, you deprived the people of Kawang of my services. I had worked my guts out for the rakyat at the expense of looking after my sick husband (the late Tengku Ahmad). "That was why when I was approached to contest again, I said it was pointless because the same thing would happen. I have no more faith in the election system.
It smacks of manipulation, cheating and corruption.
Even now, it's happening," she said.
She noted that Osu was at one time sued by a London casino for over RM60 million and there were suggestions that Megat Junid was among those with him in Britain then. "Then it was said that a casino in Australia was also trying to recover his debts there.
"Although the ACA (forerunner of the MACC) opened investigation papers, nothing came out of it."
Ariah recalled that on the first count of ballot papers that night at the Papar Community Centre, she was said to have lost by 32 votes and when a recount was made following a request, it was announced that she had lost by 64 votes.
When news of Ariah's electoral defeat spread throughout the constituency, village chiefs in Kadazan-based areas reportedly drowned their disappointment and sadness in home-brewed wine.
She was commenting on media reports on the issuance of 200 JPN receipts to immigrants to enable them to vote in Kawang in the 1994 State Election as revealed at the RCI hearing.
On January 16, a former Sabah National Registration Department (NRD) Record Division Head, Asli Sidup, told the RCI hearing that during that election, he was stationed at a polling centre in Papar to monitor the holders of about 200 JPN receipts casting their votesÉthe winner who later became Chief Minister (Datuk Osu Sukam) by 64 votes.
In his testimony, Asli named a now deceased Deputy Minister (Tan Sri Megat Junid Megat Ayub) as the one giving the directive.
According to him, he received instruction from the late Deputy Minister during a meeting in Hyatt Hotel, Kota Kinabalu, where Ramli Kamaruddin (who took over as Sabah NRD Director from Rauf, and Osu Sukam) were present.
"The directive was to replace the names of people who had never voted before with another list of people who were to be issued with JPN receipts," he said, adding that the list was obtained from the Election Commission (SPR), Kemas (Community Development Department) and a political party.
However, Asli said these people were not eligible to get the IC since the JPN receipts were only issued to allow them to vote.
Ariah also said she could never imagine Megat Junid could be involved.
"As then State Pemadam Chairperson, I used to attend National Pemadam meetings in KL chaired by him in his capacity as National Pemadam Chairperson. He was so gracious, so polite and was so nice to me."
Days before the 1994 State Election, it was brought to Ariah's attention that boatloads of "outsiders" were being ferried from an island (off Kawang) for them to vote in Kawang."
"They were accommodated in homes of 'friendly' residents at Kg Pengalat Kecil (in Kawang). My supporters informed me that others were kept in a rubber estate behind a certain politician's house.
According to her, she was also alerted that scores of buses would be transporting foreign migrants to cast their ballots on the day of the election.
"In fact, the number plates of the buses were provided to me a day or two earlier. So the PBS Kawang Division mobilised the youth wing to take preventive action.
"The youths tried to stop the buses from going to the polling centres.
Instead, police arrested and detained them (youths).
Their parents came to me pleading for help, and I had to intervene to get the youths released," she recalled.
Ariah also remembered an incident at the Kg Gana polling centre where a woman was very upset and complained that she could not vote because the officer concerned told her she had already voted and that her name in the electoral roll had been struck out (indicating that she had already cast her ballot).
"Datuk, saya tidak boleh undi. Dia cakap saya sudah undi pagi tadi.
Nama saya sudah garis. Mana ada? Saya baru sampai," (Datuk, I can't vote.
He said I had already voted in the morning. My name is already struck out.
How come? I just came) the woman lamented.
Anticipating this, Ariah actually reminded the voters to turn up early but many came late, saying they had to do household chores and feed the livestock first.
"Apparently, illegal immigrants had voted in the places of locals, using forged identity cards (ICs). They came early to the polling centres (in buses) unlike the locals, many of whom took their own sweet time to walk to the centres at noon or in the afternoon."
And there was this "Helicopter Money Dropping" Incident at another polling centre in Kawang just as people were lining up to vote.
"Rolled-up fifty dollar notes were swirling in the air.
The people stopped lining up and rushed for the money.
"Seeing this, I turned to a police personnel who was on duty but he instead said 'Datuk, bila lagi durian runtoh' (Datuk, when will there be a windfall again)."
Subsequently, when Ariah went to court to seek justice with all the evidence of election fraud (examples, use of underaged voters and voters using the identification particulars of deceased whose names were not removed from the Kawang electoral rolls), it turned out to be a futile exercise.
"I saw with my own eyes money being paid out to voters from a red car outside the polling centre. My aide took photographs and we lodged a police report at the Papar Police-Station the same day.
"Months later, it was reported to me that police were harassing my aide to surrender the negatives," she remembered.
Despite losing the court case, the former DCM persisted in her objection to names of dubious voters in the Kawang electoral rolls in the mid-nineties.
According to her, questionable voters openly admitted that they had obtained their blue identity cards (ICs) through "Project IC".
"When asked where they were born, some gave inconsistent answers.
Initially, they said they were born in Kawang, Sembulan, Kudat or Sandakan but after much interrogation, they admitted that they were born in the Philippines."
Notwithstanding Ariah's objection, the presiding officer (who was the then Papar District Officer) accepted the dubious voters' blue ICs as authentic and refused to expunge their names from the Kawang electoral rolls.
"Saya akan terima kad pengenalan ini asalkan ia berwarna biru.
Saya tidak peduli samada ia datang dari langit atau bumi," (I will accept this IC as long as it is blue.
I don't care whether it comes from the sky or earth) the presiding officer was quoted as saying while waving a blue IC in the air.
Even Ariah's brother, the late Leonard Pritchard (a former Sabah Padi Board employee) was not spared of electoral fraud.
In an earlier State Election (before 1994), an illegal immigrant had allegedly used Pritchard's blue IC to cast his ballot.
"When I discovered this, I lodged a complaint and my brother's name was then deleted from the Kawang electoral rolls."