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anakbukitgantang says


When Soldiers vote

Written by Sakmongkol on 1:02 PM


My article on Bagan Pinang- vote for normalcy stirred up abnormal interests. There were some colorful though not flattering descriptions of sakmongkol. That's all right as I have said I have no problems with disagreeing in debates of this kind. As long as you do it in a civilized manner. Don't lah call people stupid or pokemon or what. I have been described in worse terms by UMNO members. I like to consider myself as one of the most strident critics of my party. Unfortunately I have this stubborn principle that once I hold on to a burning ember, I will do so till it becomes ash. I have all the 'right' reasons to disown UMNO if I wanted to - being abandoned after one term and having spent a good number of years of my life with UMNO with no perceptible benefits. But just like the Pakatan people, I too have my idealized version of UMNO.

Bagan Pinang. It seems to me, the bone of contention is the postal voting. There have been claims by someone who said he was a former army chap saying there are coercion and all that. As a result, military men are prevented from voting on their own freewill. I do not agree with his claim which unfortunately is not supported by facts. What is preventing this person and others who say they have proof and evidence even narrative ones, from saying them on the net? Say it out in the open so we can rebut if there are grounds too. We can then debate on their statements.

Of course, like anywhere else, the possibility of cheating is there. Everything is possible. Cheating also occurs when civilians vote. I tell you when cheating IS possible and this is probably just one of the many possibilities. The presiding officer calls the names of those who are about to vote. They are not present, so the officer retains the voting papers. Assume that there 300 absent. He has 300 voting papers. The officer can then 'vote' on behalf of these absentees or if he is a ruffian, can call the contending parties, whether they want to pay for the 300 votes.

But then, this is an exception to the rule. It may and does happen but the fault is with this particular person and the commentator who claimed there's cheating may be this person. That is why he appears to have personal knowledge.

Allow me to tell you this. Not all camp commanders are pro UMNO and BN. These people are intelligent people some are very qualified. Not all officers are pro UMNO and BN. And non officers- they campaign among each other. They do not live on a deserted island. They mix socially with civilians, read papers and even surf the internet. I am told by friends that many also read sakmongkol's web. While the majority like what they read, there are also some who get peeved by my extolling the AK47, the weapon of choice by communists and other rebels. They can form independent opinions on politics.

We have no guarantee that whatever is said by the camp commandant is followed by his troops- that is not a marching order. There is no guarantee that they will vote for UMNO. In 1999, the air force troops in the Air force camp in Kuantan didn't vote for UMNO. In 2008, the navy boys in Tanjung Gelang in Kuantan rejected the UMNO candidate. They are capable of forming independent opinions.

The register of voters is given by the SPR. The duty officer calls the army chaps and hand them ballot papers. Once they have the ballot papers, they go over the polling booth to vote and vote whomsoever they want. No one knows who they voted- not the commanding officer, the duty office ror whoever they are. Mind you, while this process takes place, the political parties have their representatives watching over the whole process like hawks. If they notice any peculiarities they will immediately take them up unless they sleep on their watch.

So by and large, the rule is, voting by the military is as transparent as voting by civilians.

As far as campaign is concerned, no parties are allowed into army camps to canvass for votes. No UMNO people, no PR people. The defense minister does not campaign there on a 24 hour basis and he doesn't have the capacity to watch over the troops at all hours. If PAS people want to cling on the perimeter fencing, please do but you will encounter the risk of tasting the bullets from the M16.

So how do you explain that generally, army chaps vote for the government? Can you explain this away simply by saying there is coercion? You think you can force our soldier boys with M16 in their hands and other explosive materials to vote for a particular person? I have been a wakil rakyat in an area with a large army camp. Each time I enter the camp, I do so with much trepidation because you enter an area with sentries bearing M16's and hours under the burning sun can alter the brain chemicals.

You simply can't explain the track record of pro government voting just by saying- ah there's coercion. Soldier boys don't vote as civilians do because the voting centers are in the camps. Let me also say, there are even stricter protocols to observe when soldier boys vote. They do so in a more orderly fashion free from the heckling of mamat UMNO and mamat PR.

There were also comments challenging me that if I have faith in our soldiers why don't you allow them to vote like civilians? Ok. How do civilians vote? If I remember when ever civilians voted for UMNO/BN, the PR people still insist they do so under force, coercion and all that stuff. This means that this allegation will surface irrespective of the place of voting. You will still say the same thing. Who says the army votes any differently from civilians? They do, except they do so in their voting centers which happen to be in camps.

Let me try to explain why in general the army boys vote for the government. It called simple reciprocity. Imagine this. You take in thousands of boys with elementary education, make them into recruits. Which means you offer them a second chance to become worthwhile individuals. You infuse them with skills and training, discipline; provide a rewarding passage through adulthood. Most get married and with army salaries take care of their immediate families and parents too. These are human beings. They are appreciative of the efforts made by the government of the day. They feel it is only right by reciprocating through supporting the government which has accorded them a second chance. It's called gratitude.

That's good culture. If people question their record and if people imply that because they voted for the government because they are forced to, then these people are teaching us to reject the virtue of saying thank you.

Thank you.

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