Thursday, October 15, 2015

Federal Court gives S’wak redelineation go ahead

Kow Gah Chie

The Federal Court in Putrajaya today unanimously ruled the Election Commission’s (EC) Sarawak constituency redefinition exercise is valid.
The three-member bench led by Court of Appeal president justice Md Raus Sharif dismissed the leave application against the redefinition, saying the questions raised by the applicants were academic.
That followed senior federal counsel Armajeet Singh, who in his submission on Tuesday had argued that the Federal Court has no jurisdiction to determine the Sarawak constituency redelineation case, as the final report was submitted to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Thus, the senior federal counsel stressed that the matter is academic, as Parliament is conferred with exclusive jurisdiction to decide on the Sarawak redelineation exercise.
“None of the questions raised passed the threshold of the Court of Juricature Act, 1964,” said Raus.
Even if some of the questions raised by the applicants were allowed, they will not succeed in the trial, he said.
“We dismissed the application,” he said in his two-minutes judgment, after giving three grounds for the decision.
The apex court, however, ordered no costs from the applicants.
This means Sarawak will be able to use the new redefinition in the next state election, which is to be conducted latest by next June.
The Sarawak redefinition exercise sees an additional 11 state seats being added to the present 71, bringing the total to 82.
The case was brought by PKR Batu Lintang assemblyperson See Chee How and Ulu Baram voter Pauls Baya.
EC submitted the final report on the redefinition exercise for Sarawak to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak this Aug 21.
The final report will come to force once the August House passes it with a simple majority. The next sitting commence on Oct 19.
See and Baya were seeking leave at the Federal Court to appeal against the decision on Aug 7 this year by the Court of Appeal, which overturned the decision of the Kuching High Court on May 15 that the redefinition was illegal.
The Kuching High Court had ordered the EC to republish its notice after ruling that the notice lacked details.
Senior counsel Cyrus Das and Ambiga Sreenevasan appeared for See while senior federal counsels Amarjeet Singh, Shamsul Bolhassan and Azizan appeared for the EC.
Missed opportunity
Ambiga expressed disappointment that the Federal Court had missed the opportunity to address and resolve both Article 113 and 13th Schedule of the federal constitution, which dealt with electoral matters and the redelineation issue.
“I feel this is a missed opportunity to resolve the issue relate to Article 113 and 13th Schedule of the federal constitution,” she said outside the courtroom.
According to her, the judiciary door for the matter is closed as the requirement of the last resort - to seek a review against the Federal Court’s decision today, was very strict.
“This decision would impact the redelineation of peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, as the Federal Court, which upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal, seems to suggest only a minimum of particulars is needed to be given (by the EC relating to constituency redeliniation),” she said.
See challenged the redelineation boundary of Sarawak state seats as only a bare map had been given in the notice published by the EC.
Ambiga, who is also the former co-chairperson of electoral watchdog Bersih, said they will keep an eye on the redelineation boundary for both peninsular Malaysia and Sabah.
She hoped the EC will provide sufficient information in the current redelineation it is undertaking.

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