In a landmark decision, the Kuching High Court today nullified the Election Commission's re-delineation exercise for Sarawak.
Following this, Justice Yew Jen Kie granted a declaration sought by Sarawak PKR that the re-delineation lacked in detailed particulars of the areas specified in paragraph two of the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution.
The court also granted a mandamus order to compel EC to republish the notice of its proposed recommendations to review the division of the Sarawak state constituencies for the purpose of elections for the state legislative assembly.
The application was made by Batu Lintang assemblyperson See Chee How (photo) and a voter of Baram.
This is a victory of sorts for the opposition who had been contesting the re-delineation exercise as invalid because it lacked particulars for voters to protest.
The Kuching High Court granted leave (permission) on Feb 7 to See's application for a judicial review.
Today's decision would hamper Chief Minister Adenan Satem's plan to seek a fresh mandate following his appointment last year. The state must hold elections before the middle of next year.
At present, Sarawak has 71 state seats and the re-delineation exercise by EC seeks to increase it to 82 - an additional 11 - for the state legislative assembly.
Besides this decision today, activist Haris Ibrahim has also filed for a judicial review against the EC to compel the electoral body to provide details of the re-delineation process for all constituencies in Malaysia.
Thanked civil society groups
See, when contacted, said today's decision was good for the people of Sarawak as the EC should not bulldoze through a re-delineation exercise like it had done in the past.
The decision, he said, meant the court found that the EC had not been complying with the 13th Schedule as required by the Federal Constitution.
“This is not only a victory for Sarawak but for other states facing re-delineation exercises. I would like to personally thank electoral watchdog Bersih, Tindak Malaysia and NGO Rise of Sarawak Efforts (Rose).
“They and other civil society groups contributed much to our efforts and in supporting us in our challenge.”
With the decision, the Batu Lintang assemblyperson said EC will have to comply with what is required under the Federal Constitution.
EC chairperson Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof (photo), when contacted said the electoral bodu will 'carefully study' today's Sarawak High Court decision.
“An official media statement will be issued accordingly,” he said.
On electoral re-delineation exercises in other states, Abdul Aziz said EC will issue a notices for them at the appropriate time.
The 13th Schedule
The Federal Constitution's 13th Schedule Paragraph 2 states :
'The following principles shall as far as possible be taken into account in dividing any unit of review into constituencies pursuant to the provisions of Articles 116 and 117 —
(a) while having regard to the desirability of giving all electors reasonably convenient opportunities of going to the polls, constituencies ought to be delimited so that they do not cross state boundaries and regard ought to be had to the inconveniences of state constituencies crossing the boundaries of federal constituencies;
(b) regard ought to be had to the administrative facilities available within the constituencies for the establishment of the necessary registration and polling machines;
(c) the number of electors within each constituency in a State ought to be approximately equal except that, having regard to the greater difficulty of reaching electors in the country districts and the other disadvantages facing rural constituencies, a measure of weightage for area ought to be given to such constituencies;
(d) regard ought to be had to the inconveniences attendant on alterations of constituencies, and to the maintenance of local ties.