Friday, June 5, 2015

Stop using A-G’s Chambers to fight your battles, lawyers tell EC

BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR

Lawyer and former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram says lawyers are more than capable to represent the Election Commission even in petitions to contest election results. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, June 3, 2015.

Lawyer and former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram says lawyers are more than capable to represent the Election Commission even in petitions to contest election results. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, June 3, 2015.
The Election Commission (EC) must stop obtaining legal advice from the Attorney-General (A-G) as he is the chief adviser to the ruling government, according to constitutional lawyers and a retired judge who said the electoral body should instead engage lawyers in legal disputes.
The lawyers said the EC must always be mindful of public perception towards the commission due to its special position in the Federal Constitution.
They were commenting a recent statement from the EC that it was leaving it to the A-G’s Chambers to decide whether to appeal the Kuching High Court’s ruling on the proposed redelineation of Sarawak’s electoral boundaries.
EC chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had said he was leaving the matter with the A-G as it was related to the Federal Constitution.
The lawyers, however, argued a better option was for the EC to engage lawyers to represent it in legal disputes, especially when in involved Putrajaya and state governments.
Retired Federal Court judge, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, said the A-G and his officers were representatives of the Federal government and the executive, inclusive of the prime minister.
"The EC must be free of executive pressure and influence to enjoy public confidence," he added.
  
He said lawyers were more than capable to represent the EC, even in petitions to contest election results.
  
Lawyer Edmond Bon (pic, left) said it did not inspire confidence in the EC when government lawyers appeared for them, when one party to the dispute was the establishment.
  
"The EC is established under the constitution and it is suppose to be an independent body," he said.
Bon said the EC was also unique because Article 114 (2) of the constitition stated that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong must have regard to the importance of securing an EC which enjoys public confidence in making appointments.
"This is not expressly stated when it comes to appointments to the judiciary, executives and the legislature, although these three institutions act as check and balance to each other," he added.
He said Article 114 (2) puts EC even higher than the three arms of the government to be truly independent.

Lawyer Chan Kok Keong said Aziz's statement gave the impression that the EC chief and the other commission members were mechanical in discharing their constitutional functions.
  
"The EC should have addressed its mind whether to appeal and then convey its decision to the A-G's Chambers, not leaving it to Gani to decide because it touched on constitutional issue," he said.
Chan suggested that the respondents in the suit apply to strike out the appeal on grounds that the EC had abdicated its constitutional duty.
"The EC should have studied the impact of the High Court ruling and should not have appealed if the decision was in the spirit of holding free and fair elections," he added.
On May 15, Judge Yew Jen Kie ordered the EC to republish its notice on the redelineation of electoral boundaries in Sarawak, by adhering to provisions in the 13th schedule of the Federal Constitution.
The judge said the notice dated January 5 lacked crucial information for the public involved in making the decision on the re-delineation exercise.
Aziz said that if the redelineation of electoral boundaries in Sarawak had to be redone, it would be time-consuming and incur additional cost.
The cost of redrawing the electoral boundaries in the state was about RM800,000, he added.
Batu Lintang assemblyman and state PKR vice-chairman See Chee How and a voter in Ulu Baram, Pauls Baya, had filed a judicial review on grounds of a serious and considerable lack of details in the notice for people who were affected to make a decision. - June 3, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/stop-using-a-gs-chambers-to-fight-your-battles-lawyers-tell-ec#sthash.6ox9YVgf.vomAdIju.dpuf

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