Tuesday, January 10, 2017

'Voters not entitled to know how EC decided on redelineation'

Hafiz Yatim     Published     Updated

The Court of Appeal today ruled that voters cannot get information from the Election Commission over how it arrived on the process of redelineation.

In an unanimous decision, the appellate court in Putrajaya also ruled that lawyer and activist Haris Ibrahim had not pleaded how his rights would be infringed by the EC's decision.

Justice Zamani A Rahim who wrote the judgment said the absence of federal legislation regarding freedom of information compared to in India and Canada also resulted in such information cannot be given.

"Based on the above, (Haris') appeal is without merit and should be refused. It is a challenge to the constitutional duties of the EC as specified under Article 113 of the Federal Constitution," he said.

“There is nothing in both the Federal Constitution and the Election Act 1958 or other express statutory provisions which require the respondent (EC) to do what the appellant is asking for from the court,” he said.

Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who led the panel that also consisted of Justice Ahmadi Asnawi and Justice Zamani, made no order as to costs.

The court made the decision despite Haris' lawyers telling the court that their client had a right to freedom of information based on his right on Article 10 regarding freedom of expression.

Haris told reporters with the decision today what it meant is that the people must continue to pressure with reforms of the various institutions including EC.

He said he will seek advice over the next course of action on whether to appeal to the Federal Court.

The lawyer and activist said the result of redelineation is that in his constituency of Petaling Jaya Selatan, which originally had 90,000 voters, would now become Petaling Jaya with about 150,000 voters.

"My votes are now diluted as a result of this", he said, adding his constituency of PJ Selatan and Bukit Gasing state seat, had seen Taman Medan and Seri Setia entering into his constituency. 

Lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar appeared for Haris while senior federal counsel Suzana Atan appeared for EC.

May affect other cases
Malik said the decision today may have a bearing on other existing challenges on the present EC redelineation exercise in Peninsular Malaysia.

At present there are several people including politicians like Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar who had filed a judicial review application to challenge the EC redelineation.

Haris further commented that a foreign newspaper had commented about Malaysia's gerrymandering, which saw 52 per cent of voters who voted against the prime minister Najib Abdul Razak's government

“Don't tell me that the voters are wrong and they have no right to ask EC to provide the information,” he said.

“If we look at India, the largest democracy with 600 million voters, their commission's website provides all the information that one seek for including the maps, the number of voters and others.

"However, in Malaysia with our EC, we cannot ask for the information and when we ask the court, we are also unsuccessful," he said.

"It is truly troubling that we are in the 21st century, and the EC can shove anything down our throat and we are expected to keep quiet, he said.

The activist added that he liked Pandan MP, Rafizi Ramli's Invoke initiative and hence, was supporting it by delivering a talk in Johor.

Invoke, is an apolitical NGO for Malaysians who are eager to contribute for a change of government
Malik had in last October in Haris' appeal, told the court that EC must furnish details of how it arrived at a decision to redelineate certain areas to explain how come some constituencies having bigger number of voters, with some even seeing a ten-fold increase, while others less.
This was despite the Federal Constitution stating that the electoral body should ensure there is at least an equal number of voters in each constituency, he pointed out.

It was reported two years ago that the Kuala Lumpur High Court had dismissed Haris' application to compel the EC to furnish details of the redelineation exercise for all constituencies in its website.

The High Court judge ruled that Haris did not have the locus standi (legal standing) to initiate this originating summons to compel the EC to provide details of other constituencies.

~ Malaysiakini

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