Prior to the 2004 General Election, I never knew nor understood the role of the Polling Agent and Counting Agent, or PACA as it is generally known. In a GE, volunteers for each party have their own roles and responsibilities, each assigned to their specific duties by the persons in charge. Some of these responsibilities include: security, campaigners, logistic, PACA, communication, liaison, and perhaps several more which offhand I cannot remember. Sometimes the duties overlap each other, but most of the time the volunteers find themselves multi-tasking due to lack of funds and volunteers, except for the campaign volunteers which come in droves soon after the Parliament is dissolved.
In the 2004 GE, I found myself picked for PACA duty, along with 2 friends, Kashfullah and Azrin. Along with about 2 scores of other volunteers picked, we attended a 2hour course organised by PAS Kelana Jaya, and were briefed on our duty for the day, as well as a crash course on the laws and rulings of election day. Each of us then were issued identification tags as the immediate area surrounding each polling station is a restricted area; the voting public are allowed to enter but must leave immediately once they cast their vote.
For the 2004 GE Day, SPR had informed us that no political parties may erect their 'pondok panas' - though the public may check directly with the SPR counter present just outside the polling station, each contesting political parties are allowed to set up the 'pondok panas' to further assist the public identify the ballot box channel which SPR have assigned them to. This, would reduce the queue time and hence a convenience for all concerned. Apart from that, the 'pondok panas' also serve as the last canvassing point for the volunteers. However, a day prior to GE Day, we found ameno had already erected their 'pp' and we protested the matter to SPR, who, said they have just only rescinded the restriction order. The PAS Campaign Manager for the area immediately called for volunteers to build our 'pp'. At this point, it should be noted that though the PAS was vying for the Sri Setia Selangor State Assembly Seat, PKR, DAP and PSM members contributed their time and energy as well. Likewise should be noted for other areas where the opposition stood against the gargantuan be end machinery.
On the morning of GE Day, Kashfullah, Azrin and I arrived early to assist the 'pp' volunteers. All 3 of us were assigned to the same ballot box; as polling agents we were to observe the smooth flow of the electoral process from within, and protest any suspicious activity by any party, including SPR. Another 2 volunteers were assigned the duty of Counting Agent which formed the role of PACA. From 8am to 5pm when the Polling Station close, the 3 of us took turns, each on a 3hour shift; while one stood duty inside, the other 2 would assist the 'pp' outside. A point to note here: During the course of 7 days prior to GE Day, SPR had release 3 voters lists - one to all the contesting political parties; later another one but only to ameno; then on voting day, another list was issued to all political parties. This caused a major uproar but was ignored by SPR.
The day's business went smoothly and we were confident that our candidate, Mastura Mohamed, would stand an even chance and may even win convincingly. Surprisingly, voters turn out by 3pm was not high as expected. Little did we realise that the voters list incident would play a deciding factor in ameno's grand scheme of scams! And a scam it was as will be mentioned later.
At 4pm, we heard on the radio that due to a large confusion in the voting list in Selangor, SPR had extended the voting hours to 7pm - an extra 2 hours! Initially we did not know what to make of it, but was later informed by a legal adviser that the extension is in fact illegal! For SPR to extend the voting hours, they must get the consent of all contesting candidates, but such have not been the case. It was then surprising that the SPR Manager for the Polling Station there decided to defy the extension hours order and proceed to close the voting there. But that did not help to stop the fiasco from happening!
At our Polling Station, each of us began calling and sending messages to volunteers of other areas asking them to deny anyone from entering the polling stations after 5pm. At the same time, our Campaign Manager called our base and requested for more volunteers for the mayhem that was anticipated. At 5.30pm, near anarchy reigned within the state of Selangor.
At our Polling Station, perhaps in wanting not to exhibit their defiance openly, the Polling Station was purposely left wide open for the public to see that it is still operational. But the SPR staff manning the counter outside had already closed their books and had entered the hall. In other words, there was no one to issue any late voters with their voting slip, or to direct them to their appropriate ballot box! Without the voter slip, a member of the public simply cannot vote! But still, they came.
At one of the polling stations in Gombak where my cousin Azman was also a volunteer, there was a sudden surge of late comers numbering in thousands! Azman and other PAS volunteers there had to literally use their bodies to form a barricade or hold the gates of the station against the pushing crowd! Using a megaphone or a loudspeaker, the PAS Campaign Manager tried to reason with the crowd but it was getting nowhere. If I remember it well, several PAS volunteers there were even threatened with physical injury by the crowd. Then the Police came. But instead of restoring peace and order, they forced the PAS Volunteers to open the gate, and with it, a torrent of maddening confusion within the Polling Station there.
All throughout Selangor, similar incidents were reported though they may vary due to voter concentration.
At Sri Setia where I was, we were luckier as the expected crowd that came was only a trickle of about 30 latecomers. Kash and I initially stood at the entrance of the Polling Station, turning back those latecomers peacefully. But instead of heading home, they went to the ameno 'pp' and complaint to them. The ameno thugs there came and tried to force a way in but we stood our ground. The more than handful Policeman and women, sat idly a short distance away, perhaps not knowing what to do.
Again and again the thugs came like the waves of the sea. But again Kash and I - by then with several more PAS volunteers - stood our ground. Then, one of the thugs - perhaps the leader - furious at the situation, began to threaten us with bodily harm. And the 2 policemen that stood beside him, had a blank look on their faces.
At 6.30pm or so, we managed to close all the doors of the hall, leaving only one open and a PAS volunteer sat cross legged on the ground, his eyes blazing with fury, and that in itself was sufficient to turn back the other latecomers, including the leader of the thugs.
At Maghrib time, Kash and I stood guard while the other volunteers performed a jemaah prayer. It was only after everyone had finished their Maghrib prayers that we began to relax. But by that time too, ameno thugs had arrived in large numbers and were taunting us from outside. By then too, I received a text message that the PAS Terengganu government had fallen, and each of us weeped openly. Tuan Haji Ghazali, a businessman and a PAS volunteer, comforted all of us with recitals of the Al-Quran and zikir.
We waited till about 10pm before deciding it was safe to leave. By then, we had come to terms of the treachery of the SPR and ameno against the nation and people of Malaysia, and vowed to continue our struggle in a peaceful manner.
Several days later, we leaned that shambles of GE Day was due to those same latecomers voting in Terengganu and Kelantan early in the morning. Perhaps due to some miscalculation on SPR and ameno on the timing of their arrival back at Selangor, had SPR extend the voting hours here. How else could one explain for the huge surge of latecomers in many parts of Selangor? And that there was a highly irregular large voter turnout in Terengganu especially, reaching as high as 95%? The latter has never happened in the history of a democratic society anywhere in the entire world! Malaysia boleh?
InsyAllah, we will continue to stand our ground! Agi Idup Agi Nglaban!