Nowhere in the world has there been so much controversy about ink. What did it contain? How much silver nitrate? Why did it come off so easily? Who supplied it?
These and other questions were raised as early as 2011, two years before the general election on May 5.
The Malaysian Insider reproduces the various statements made by the Election Commission on the indelible ink. Put together, it is easy to understand why the EC could not shake off the stench surrounding the ink.
Dec 19, 2011: EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof announces that indelible ink will be used in GE13 to prevent multiple voting. He assures voters that the ink will contain at least four per cent to seven per cent silver nitrate and will last for at least seven days. EC’ s announcement was the culmination of a long campaign by political parties and Bersih.
March 14, 2012: EC says the indelible ink will be in two different colours to distinguish advance voters from those voting on polling day.
May 24 2012: Bersih wants to know why rules made by EC with regard to use of ink was not extended to advance voters. Bersih also questions the efficacy of applying a single line on the finger of a voter rather than dipping the finger in indelible ink.
April 11, 2013: Abdul Aziz assures public that ink to be used in GE13 will be completely different from those available in the market, making duplication difficult.
April 30: Advanced voting takes place and numerous reports are lodged that the ink can be easily removed by using hand sanitiser gel and soap. Hearing this, Abdul Aziz says that as police reports have been lodged, it is for the police to investigate claims that the ink is easily washed off. This contrasts with earlier statement by Aziz that ink would last for seven days.
May 1: EC runs tests which reveal that stains marked on fingers with ink from bottles that had been shaken prior to use last longer than those which had not.
May 3: Tian Chua and Nurul Izzah Anwar, vice-presidents of PKR, ask the EC to send the ink for testing by an independent laboratory. EC refuses.
May 4: Abdul Aziz says ink to be used in Malaysia contains only one per cent silver nitrate.
On polling day on May 5, thousands of voters lodge police reports stating that the ink came off within hours of voting. EC deputy chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar says he could not confirm the quality of the ink. Abdul Aziz says the health ministry issued an official letter to the EC stating that the level of silver nitrate must not exceed one per cent for health reasons. This is denied by the health minister on June 6, 2013. Till today, the EC cannot produce the health ministry letter.
May 7: Wan Ahmad says that EC stored the ink bottles in police lock-ups for safe-keeping and due to the “long storage period, the ink content dropped and it became thinner”.
May 13: Abdul Aziz blames the failure of the ink on voters’ fingers being oily.
May 21: Abdul Aziz says a special team had been set up to study the problem of ink being washed away. Till today, no reports have been released.
May 23: EC secretary Kamaruddin Mohamed Baria says some of the EC staff may have failed to use the ink properly during polling.
June 17: Abdul Aziz admits the failure of the ink.
June 26: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Shahidan Kassim told Parliament that the EC had used food dye instead of silver nitrate in the indelible ink.
June 27: Wan Ahmad maintains that silver nitrate was used instead of food dye but now says that the content was four per cent, not one per cent.
June 28: Shahidan says the EC was not responsible for fixing the amount of silver nitrate to be used during GE13.