MyOverseasVote Urges EC to Release Amended Postal Voting Regulations Immediately to Resolve Confusion at Malaysian Missions Overseas

With just over a month until Parliament is widely expected to be dissolved for the 13th General Election, overseas Malaysians are still in the dark about whether and how they will be able to vote by post as promised by the EC in the coming General Election. Just how the postal voting system will work is a mystery even to some Malaysian missions overseas (e.g. Singapore, Melbourne, Paris), and it was recently reported that the mission in Qatar had presented local Malaysians with a 30-minute window to register themselves. Another mission that has made up its own rules is Shanghai, where Malaysians there have not been able to apply to be ‘ordinary voters’ since the mission stopped taking registrations in July 2012, while others have found they have been registered as Postal Voters without their consent. Only one mission (London) has been able to tell us what they know about the proposed registration and voting process for postal voters. We have been told that overseas Malaysians will be required to have returned to Malaysia for at least 30 days within the past 5 years, and will be able to register using a new Form 1B that will be made available online and which can be processed within 7-10 working days. But the registration process cannot begin because the EC has yet to gazette the amended regulations for overseas postal voters. 

The EC must  answer for this shambles and get its house in order. The EC must release the amended Postal Voting Regulations immediately so that they can be scrutinised by stakeholders and so that Malaysian missions overseas and postal voting agents in each constituency can be properly briefed and trained. Given widespread distrust of the EC’s impartiality and ability to safeguard against fraud, overseas Malaysians need to know exactly what safeguards are being put in place before they register to vote by post in the upcoming General Elections. Having campaigned for over two years in order to gain the right to vote by post, MyOverseasVote undertakes to scrutinise the regulations as soon as they are gazetted and issue guidelines on minimising the risk of fraud. 

A further issue of concern that is yet unresolved is whether the campaign period will be long enough to allow postal ballots to be received and returned to Malaysia. We believe that the current minimum of 10 days is insufficient for the postal voting system to work using normal postal services, though we understand that overseas voters will have the option of having their postal ballots sent and returned via diplomatic pouch through participating Malaysian missions (embassies, high commissions or consulates). It is still unclear which Malaysian missions will be voting centres and which will not, and whether these missions will put in place special measures for Malaysians to cast their votes after normal office hours, as many Malaysians will need to travel long distances in order to reach the nearest participating mission.

We continue to encourage overseas Malaysians, especially the 400,000 Malaysians working in Singapore, to return home to vote if they can afford the time and expense, though we are aware that for most Malaysians further afield this will not be possible. We also encourage returnees to join the Jom Pantau GE13 initiative by Bersih to monitor the conduct of the elections in Malaysia.

Until the new Regulations come into effect, the MOV6 appeal against the EC, currently scheduled for 28 February 2013, will continue as usual. 

 

MyOverseasVote

London, 11 January 2013

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“Dragging” Its Feet? The EC Has Had to Be “Dragged” Kicking and Screaming by Bersih 2.0 and the PSC on Electoral Reform

MyOverseasVote reads with interest EC Deputy Chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar’s denial yesterday of Bersih 2.0 Co-Chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan’s allegation that the EC has been “dragging its feet” on election reform. In his rebuttal, Wan Ahmad cited, as an example of the EC’s “unprecedented” reforms, the extension of postal voting to all Malaysians overseas (Malaysiakini, 20 December 2012).

MyOverseasVote believes that to state that the EC has been “dragging its feet” is to endue the EC with more activity and cooperativeness than it actually deserves. It would be more apt to say that the EC has had to be dragged kicking and screaming by civil society, Bersih 2.0 and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform (PSC) in order to come up with any reforms at all. We believe that the EC’s inaction on this issue alone speaks for itself:

  • On 11 February 2011, nearly two years ago, Wan Ahmad told the press that the EC “was now looking at extending the ballot to other Malaysians at large who were working in international organisations or running businesses overseas” (The Malaysian Insider).
  • On 25 August 2011, shortly after the historic Bersih 2.0 rally in July 2011, EC Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof announced that the EC “was in the midst of amending regulations to extend postal voting rights to Malaysians working overseas” (The Star).
  • On 1 December 2011, the PSC recommended in its interim report that all Malaysians living overseas should be entitled to vote by post. This was accepted by the Dewan Rakyat, but the EC insisted on a requirement that overseas Malaysians could not vote unless they returned to Malaysia every five years.
  • On 3 April 2012, the PSC confirmed its recommendation in its final report and gave the EC a three-month deadline (3 July 2012) to make the necessary arrangements with Government departments to implement its recommendation. This was also accepted by the Dewan Rakyat.
  • On 11 July 2012, having missed the PSC’s deadline, Abdul Aziz told Malaysians that “the system [of overseas postal voting] can be implemented by September if we have to amend the law, but it could be earlier than that (if legal amendments are not needed)” (Malaysian Insider).
  • On 14 September 2012, two weeks before the start of the last Dewan Rakyat sitting before the next general election, Abdul Aziz said that the Attorney-General’s Chambers was “still studying whether an amendment to the Election Act was needed” before overseas postal voting for Malaysians could be implemented (Bernama/Malaysiakini).
  • On 19 October 2012, Wan Ahmad said that: “Very soon, maybe next month [November], we will upload the form that can be accessed by Malaysians all over the world who are already registered voters, to request to receive their ballot papers by post” (The Star).
  • On 3 December 2012, having missed the end of the final Dewan Rakyat of this Parliament, EC Secretary Datuk Kamaruddin Mohamed Baria said that: “The EC is finalising the policy, planning logistics, labour and financial provisions to implement this system effectively. After that, the EC will amend the Election (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003” (The Sun).

Again, MyOverseasVote would point out that the EC, as the body entrusted by the Federal Constitution with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls and the conduct of elections, has its own legal staff and a RM700 million budget and is given wide rule-making powers both by Article 113(5) of the Federal Constitution and by the Elections Act 1958.

As we come to the closing days of 2012, we have to note that unless the amendments to the 2003 Postal Voting Regulations are made soon, there is no way that 1 million overseas Malaysians will be able to register to vote by post in time for the next general election.

After two years of deceit and inaction, MyOverseasVote has little confidence that the EC will deliver on overseas voting by the 13th General Election, though we would be very happy to be proven wrong.

Having agreed to delay the hearing of the appeal of the six Malaysians who are suing the EC for refusing to register them as absent voters, in order to give the EC the chance to amend the regulations and lay them before the Dewan Rakyat before the final sitting in September-November 2012, the lawyers for the six will now be writing to the Court of Appeal to ask for an expedited hearing date.

MyOverseasVote is also currently working with fellow Malaysians around the world to mobilise as many Malaysians as possible to return to Malaysia to vote at the next general election. For many, the financial cost and time will be too great, but we are hopeful at least that a large number of the 400,000 Malaysians working in Singapore will be able to return to Malaysia in order to exercise their democratic rights. We are happy therefore to endorse the JomBalikUndi campaign (www.jombalikundi.com) and in particular Bersih Singapore’s initiative to organise car-pooling for Malaysians needing to return to Malaysia to vote (balikundi.bersihsingapore.com).

That Malaysians overseas have been forced to organise these initiatives speaks volumes of their lack of faith in the EC, who has time and time again let down Malaysians with its repeated delays and continued inaction. We can only surmise that for the last two years the EC has been hoping that the Prime Minister would call a general election before the regulations are amended so that it would not have to organise postal voting for Malaysians overseas. This cynical manipulation must not be allowed to continue.

MYOVERSEASVOTE

London, 21st Dec 2012

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MyOverseasVote Accuses the EC Chairman and his Deputy of Deceiving and Cheating Malaysians Overseas of Their Right to Vote by Their Inaction, in Contempt of the Dewan Rakyat and the Malaysian Public, and Calls for Their Immediate Resignation

The Chairman of the Election Commission (EC), Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, has given the clearest indication yet that the EC has no intention to implement overseas voting for Malaysians before the 13th General Elections, in contempt of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform (PSC), which were endorsed by the Dewan Rakyat:

  • On 25 August 2011, more than a year ago, Abdul Aziz announced that all Malaysians living overseas would be able to vote by post.
  • On 1 December 2011, the PSC recommended in its interim report that all Malaysians living overseas should be entitled to vote by post. This was accepted by the Dewan Rakyat.
  • On 3 April 2012, the PSC confirmed its recommendation in its final report and gave the EC a three-month deadline to make the necessary arrangements with Government departments to implement its recommendation. This was also accepted by the Dewan Rakyat.
  • On 11 July 2012, having missed the PSC’s deadline of 3 July 2012, Abdul Aziz told Malaysians that “the system [of overseas postal voting] can be implemented by September if we have to amend the law, but it could be earlier than that (if legal amendments are not needed)” (Malaysian Insider).
  • On 14 September 2012, two months later and less than two weeks before the start of the Dewan Rakyat’s September sitting, Abdul Aziz has now said that the Attorney-General’s Chambers was “still studying whether an amendment to the Election Act was needed” before overseas postal voting for Malaysians can be implemented (Bernama/Malaysiakini).

The EC is the body entrusted by the Federal Constitution with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls and the conduct of elections to the Dewan Rakyat and the State Legislative Assemblies. The EC has its own legal staff and a RM700 million budget and is given wide rule-making powers both by Article 113(5) and by the Elections Act 1958.

Sections 15 & 16 of the Act gives the EC the power to “make regulations for the registration of electors”,  “to make regulations for the conduct of elections” and “for all matters incidental thereto”. These Regulations can made by the EC with the approval of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and then laid before the Dewan Rakyat, which can reject them. Sub-section 16(n) of the Act specifically gives the EC the power to make regulations to “prescribe the facilities to be provided for voting by post and the persons entitled to vote by post”.

It is inconceivable that the EC, with its own legal staff, does not know its own rule-making powers. The EC has already made the Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003 which set out the present categories of eligible postal voters. Furthermore, regulation 3(f) of the Regulations specifically allows the EC to gazette new categories of postal voters without obtaining the approval of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Dewan Rakyat. The EC has quietly used this to gazette spouses of police officers in the Pasukan Gerakan Am, who were not previously eligible to be absent/postal voters, as postal voters.

In order to deflect attention from their thirteen months of deliberate inaction, Abdul Aziz and his deputy Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, have repeatedly expressed their disappointment at the small numbers of Malaysians overseas who have registered to vote overseas. This is despite the fact that it is currently impossible for Malaysians who are not students or government servants to register as overseas voters.

Malaysians have had enough of the deceit and inaction shown by the EC Chairman and his Deputy. It is clear that their aim all along has been to deceive overseas Malaysians with promises while having absolutely no intention to implement overseas postal voting before the 13th General Election. On behalf of 1 million overseas Malaysians, MyOverseasVote calls for their immediate resignation and for His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to appoint a new Chairman and Deputy who can command the confidence of the Malaysian public.

MYOVERSEASVOTE

London, 19th Sept 2012

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MyOverseasVote Mendakwa Warga Malaysia di Luar Negara Ditipu dan Dinafikan Hak Mengundi oleh Pengerusi SPR dan Timbalannya yang Menghina Dewan Rakyat dan Rakyat Malaysia, dan Menuntut Mereka Meletak Jawatan Dengan Serta-Merta

Pengerusi Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR), Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, telah menunjukkan secara jelas bahawa SPR tidak berniat melaksanakan pengundian secara pos dari luar negara untuk warga Malaysia sebelum Pilihan Raya Umum ke-13, dan telah menghina Jawatankuasa Khas Parlimen untuk Penambahbaikan Proses Pilihan Raya (PSC), yang syor-syornya telah diterima oleh Dewan Rakyat:

  • Pada 25 Ogos 2011, lebih daripada setahun lalu, Abdul Aziz mengumumkan bahawa semua warga Malaysia di luar negara akan dapat mengundi secara pos.
  • Pada 1 Disember 2011, PSC mengsyorkan dalam laporan interimnya bahawa semua warga Malaysia di luar negara hendaklah berhak mengundi secara pos, dan syor ini telah diterima oleh Dewan Rakyat.
  • Pada 3 April 2012, PSC telah mengesahkan syor ini dalam laporan akhirnya dan SPR diberi tempoh sehingga tiga bulan untuk membuat pengaturan yang perlu dengan jabatan-jabatan Kerajaan untuk melaksanakan syor ini. Perkara ini pun telah diterima oleh Dewan Rakyat.
  • Pada 11 Julai 2012, setelah terlepas tarikh akhir PSC itu (3 Julai 2012), Abdul Aziz telah memberitahu rakyat Malaysia bahawa “sistem [pengundian secara pos dari luar negara] dapat  dilaksanakan selewat-lewatnya pada bulan September jika kami perlu meminda undang-undang, tetapi mungkin boleh lebih awal lagi (jika pindaan undang-undang tidak diperlukan)” (Malaysian Insider).
  • Pada 14 September 2012, dua bulan selepas itu dan kurang daripada dua minggu sebelum persidangan Dewan Rakyat bulan September akan bermula, Abdul Aziz telah mengatakan bahawa Kamar Peguam Negara “masih mengkaji sama ada pindaan kepada Akta Pilihan Raya diperlukan” sebelum pengundian secara pos dari luar negara dapat dilaksanakan (Bernama/Malaysiakini).

SPR merupakan lembaga yang diamanahkan dengan tugas menyediakan dan menyemak semula daftar mengundi dan menjalankan pilihan raya untuk Dewan Rakyat dan Dewan-Dewan Undangan Negeri. SPR mempunyai kakitangan undang-undang sendiri dan mempunyai peruntukkan sebanyak RM700 juta dan diberikan kuasa yang luas untuk membuat peraturan-peraturan oleh Pekara 113(5) Perlembagaan dan oleh Akta Pilihan Raya 1958.

Seksyen-seksyen 15 & 16 Akta tersebut memberikan SPR kuasa untuk “membuat peraturan-peraturan bagi pendaftaran pemilih”, untuk “membuat bagi penjalanan pilihan raya” dan “bagi semua perkara yang bersampingan dengannya”. Peraturan-peraturan ini boleh dibuat oleh SPR dengan kelulusan Yang di-Pertuan Agong, dan selepas itu hendaklah dibentangkan di dalam Dewan Rakyat, yang berhak menolaknya. Sub-seksyen  16(n) Akta tersebut secara khususnya memberikan SPR kuasa untuk membuat peraturan-peraturan bagi “menetapkan kemudahan yang hendaklah diadakan bagi pengundian melalui pos  dan orang yang berhak mengundi melalui pos”.  

Apakah SPR, dengan kakitangan undang-undang sendiri, tidak tahu kuasanya sendiri untuk membuat peraturan-peraturan? SPR sudah membuat Peraturan-Peraturan Pilihan Raya (Pengundian Pos) 2003, yang menetapkan kategori-kategori orang yang berhak mengundi secara pos. Tambahan pula, peraturan 3(f) Peraturan-Peraturan tersebut secara khususnya membenarkan SPR mewartakan kategori-kategori pengundi pos yang baru tanpa mendapat kelulusan Yang di-Pertuan Agong atau Dewan Rakyat. SPR telah menggunakan kuasa ini secara senyap-senyap untuk mewartakan pasangan kepada pegawai polis Pasukan Gerakan Am, yang sebelum itu tidak layak menjadi pengundi pos atau pengundi tak hadir, sebagai pengundi pos.

Untuk memesongkan perhatian rakyat daripada ketidakgiatan sengaja mereka selama tiga belas bulan, Abdul Aziz dan Timbalannya, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, telah berkali-kali meluahkan kekecewaan mereka kerana tidak ramai warga Malaysia di luar negara yang telah mendaftar untuk mengundi dari luar negara. Akan tetapi, buat masa ini warga Malaysia yang bukan kakitangan kerajaan atau pelajar adalah dilarang mendaftar sebagai pengundi tak hadir.

Rakyat Malaysia telah muak dengan penipuan dan ketidakgiatan yang ditunjukkan oleh Pengerusi SPR dan Timbalannya. Jelas sekali bahawa tujuan mereka selama ini adalah untuk memperdaya warga Malaysia di luar negara dengan janji-janji kosong tanpa sebarang niat melaksanakan pengundian secara pos dari luar negara sebelum Pilihan Raya Umum ke-13. Bagi pihak sejuta warga Malaysia di luar negara, MyOverseasVote menuntut supaya mereka meletakkan jawatan dengan serta-merta, dan memohon perkenan ke bawah DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong agar melantik Pengerusi dan Timbalan Pengerusi baru yang boleh mendapat keyakinan rakyat Malaysia.

MYOVERSEASVOTE

London, 19hb Sept 2012

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EC Must Be Straight with Malaysians About the Number of Overseas voters

MyOverseasVote is pleased that the Election Commission (EC) deputy chairman Datuk Wira Wan Ahmad Wan Omar has acknowledged that over 20,000 Malaysians overseas have registered as voters at embassies and high commissions overseas, and not 500, as previously claimed by the EC chairman.

There are in fact several numbers that are relevant, and the EC must be clear what it is talking about:

  • the number of Malaysians registered as absent voters overseas [500?];
  • the number of Malaysians registered as ordinary or absent voters at Malaysian missions overseas [20,000?];
  • the number of registered voters who are living overseas [unknown];
  • the number of Malaysians eligible to register as absent voters overseas [c. 20,000]
  • the total number of Malaysians living and working overseas [c. 1,000,000].

Starting from the bottom, according to a joint study by the World Bank and the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, there are 1 million Malaysians living and working overseas. It is presumed that most of the working population are over 21. Given that Malaysia only has 16 million eligible voters, of whom only 12.5 million are registered, this is a significant proportion of the potential electorate. 98% of these are currently not eligible to vote by post.

Of the 1 million, only approximately 20,000 or only 2% of the 1 million are currently eligible to register as absent or postal voters. Military and government personnel will number several hundred at the most, so the bulk of these comprise postgraduate students who are generally over the age of 21 (estimated at a quarter of the total number of Malaysians studying overseas).

The EC cannot in fact know how many registered voters live overseas. This is because while some register at Malaysian embassies and high commissions abroad, for most people it is easier to register as ordinary voters at post offices and through political parties while in Malaysia. Many Malaysians who work overseas have already registered as voters when they were living in Malaysia.

The EC can only tell us: (a) how many Malaysians have registered as ordinary or absent voters at Malaysian missions overseas, and (b) how many of these are qualified to be absent voters. As we have seen, neither of these figures is relevant to how many registered or eligible voters actually live abroad and want to vote by post.

And the proportion of voters who register to vote is irrelevant to whether voting should be allowed for those who choose to register. In Sarawak, nearly 30% of eligible voters have not registered to vote. Should we then abolish voting in Sarawak? If the EC can organise postal voting for government servants and students overseas, it can also do so for other overseas Malaysians.

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PSC’s 3-Month Deadline Has Come and Gone while the EC Drags Its Feet on Overseas Postal Voting – Malaysians Have Had Enough of the EC’s Excuses and “Red Herrings”

On 3 April 2012, Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform (PSC)’s unanimously recommended that the Election Commission (EC) put in place a system whereby all Malaysian citizens living overseas could vote by post. The EC was given a deadline of 3 months to consult with the relevant government agencies in order to enable the necessary regulations to be made. This recommendation was accepted unanimously by the Dewan Rakyat.

This deadline, 3 July 2012, has now come and gone without any announcement by the EC. This is despite the fact that in May, the EC Deputy Chairman, Datuk Wira Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, had stated that the EC was targeting the recent 11-28 June parliamentary sitting for the necessary amendments to the elections regulations.

Nearly a year has passed since the EC Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof, announced in August 2011, after the July 2011 Bersih 2.0 rally, that the EC had agreed to give all Malaysians overseas the right to vote by post. Since that time, the EC has given all manner of excuses and “red herrings” to justify its failure to honour its commitment, and Malaysians have found it hard to avoid the conclusion that the EC has been trying to delay implementing this reform until after the 13th general election.

Malaysians have had enough of the EC’s excuses for its non-performance and its misleading attempts to justify its restriction of the voting rights of Malaysian citizens overseas. The EC Chairman must now explain why it has failed to abide by the 3-month deadline set by the PSC and the Dewan Rakyat.

 

EC Excuses and “Red Herrings”

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EC Chairman Out of Touch with Reality – A Travesty of the Highest Order that He Should Be Trying to Shift the Blame to Malaysians Overseas for the EC’s Failure to Comply with PSC Deadline of 3 July 2012.

The Election Commission (EC) Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, is clearly out of touch with reality if he expects 1 million Malaysians living and working overseas to register their postal addresses with Malaysian embassies overseas when there is no provision in the EC’s regulations for them to vote by post.

Since October 2010, MyOverseasVote has been campaigning for all Malaysians overseas to be given the right to vote by post. In August 2011, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz announced that the EC would extend postal voting to all Malaysians overseas, but nearly a year later, nothing has been done by the EC to allow Malaysians overseas to register as postal voters.

The EC Chairman is quoted in a Malaysiakini article (“EC rues ‘poor’ response from Malaysians abroad”) dated 14 June 2012 as saying that the response of overseas Malaysians to the EC’s calls for them to register was “poor”, and that only 400-500 overseas Malaysians had registered their addresses with Malaysian embassies overseas.

Tan Sri Abdul Aziz is fully aware that the EC’s regulations only allow overseas Malaysians to vote as absent voters if they are serving members of the military, government servants or students. At present, Malaysians overseas who fall outside these categories are only able to register as ordinary voters, who must return to Malaysia to vote. In 2011, six overseas Malaysians applied to register as absent voters at the High Commission in London only to discover months later that they were registered by the EC as ordinary voters because they did not qualify under the EC’s regulations. They are now challenging the EC’s decision and its regulations in a Court of Appeal hearing that will be heard on 26 July 2012.

Under Article 25(2) of the Federal Constitution, Malaysians who are citizens by registration or naturalization are required to register annually with the Malaysian consulate if they wish to retain their Malaysian citizenship while residing overseas. But for Malaysians who are citizens by birth, or otherwise by operation of law, there is simply no reason to register with the Malaysian embassy or consulate unless consular assistance is required, especially if the EC refuses to allow them to vote by post.

Registering as an absent voter under the 2002 Registration of Electors Regulations is a 3-6-month process as lengthy as the process of registering as a new voter, involving public display, inspection, objections and quarterly gazetting of the supplementary electoral roll. Until late last year, Malaysians students overseas were required to take time off their studies and travel in person to the Malaysian embassy or high commission in the capital city, which are only open for voter registration on weekday mornings, if they wished to register.

For this reason, the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reform has recommended that overseas Malaysians be added as a category of postal voter, who do not need to go through the whole 3-6-month voter registration process all over again. However, as of now, the 2003 Postal Voting Regulations do not allow for the registration of overseas Malaysians as postal voters. The PSC tabled its final recommendations on 3 April 2012, and gave the EC a three-month deadline for implementation of its recommendations. The simple amendments that are needed to allow Malaysians overseas to register as postal voters should therefore have been made ready to be laid before the Dewan Rakyat during the current sitting, which lasts from 11 June until 28 June 2012.

Many overseas Malaysians have already registered as ordinary voters while in Malaysia, and have therefore been waiting anxiously since August 2011 for the EC to announce the forms and procedures for registering as a postal voter. It is a travesty of the highest order that the EC Chairman should now be trying to divert attention and shift the blame to overseas Malaysians for his commission’s failure to meet the PSC’s deadline of 3 July 2012.

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