EC: We will continue inquiries for Peninsula redelineation, only barred in two states

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https://hakam.org.my/wp/2017/05/14/ec-we-will-continue-inquiries-for-peninsula-redelineation-only-barred-in-two-states/
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Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — The Election Commission (EC) can and will continue to hold local inquiries — a crucial part of the redelineation process — in Peninsular Malaysia states where there are no court orders to block such hearings.

EC chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah said two existing court orders only requires the voting regulator to pause its local inquiries in Selangor and Melaka.

“There is no stay order granted against EC to stop the local inquiry except in Selangor and Melaka. EC can proceed with the rest.

“The stay orders granted only for Selangor and Melaka, and do not apply to the whole Tanah Melayu. We will proceed accordingly,” he said in a written response to Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.

Under the Federal Constitution, the EC is required to hold local inquiries to hear objections from affected state governments, local authorities and voters to its proposals for redelineation. The redelineation exercise could involve actions ranging from redrawing voting boundaries, renaming of electoral constituencies to the adding of new seats.

As for whether the EC will appeal against the Melaka High Court’s Friday stay order, Mohd Hashim said: “We have 30 days to consider whether to appeal or not. All factors must be considered before we decide.”

On Friday, the Melaka High Court granted an application by seven Melaka voters for a stay of local inquiries in the state.

Chan Tsu Chong, who is one of the seven voters and also their spokesman, told Malay Mail Online yesterday that a local inquiry in Melaka was initially scheduled on May 18 but will not go on now.

“The main argument for the stay order [application] is the court must stop the process so that the main case doesn’t become irrelevant,” the outreach officer of polls reform group Bersih 2.0 said, adding that it was also aimed at preventing the main lawsuit from becoming academic.

On April 4, Chan and six others had filed for a judicial review against the EC, Mohd Hashim and EC secretary Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh, urging the courts to declare the second stage of the EC’s review of election boundaries for federal and state seats in Peninsular Malaysia as unconstitutional and invalid.

In a court document sighted by Malay Mail Online, Chan listed five grounds on why the EC was argued to have acted unconstitutionally, including the latter’s decision to go ahead with the second round of redelineation proposals for Peninsular Malaysia without including Selangor.

Chan had also cited the EC’s alleged malapportionment instead of ensuring seats are approximately equal in terms of voters’ numbers; gerrymandering caused by alleged disregard of local ties in the redrawing of electoral boundaries; failure to use the current electoral roll; as well as the use of a defective electoral roll where no address was listed for around 44,190 voters.

As for Selangor, the Kuala Lumpur High Court had previously granted a stay order on local inquiries in the state until the end of the Selangor government’s challenge against the EC’s alleged unconstitutional and defective redelineation exercise.

Lawyer Derek Fernandez confirmed to Malay Mail Online that the hearing of Selangor’s main lawsuit has now been paused, as a related matter involving the Selangor state government’s application — to cross-examine the EC chairman and for information on the “missing” addresses of 136,272 Selangor voters — is now currently on appeal at the Court of Appeal.

EC had on April 7 filed an appeal against the High Court’s order for it to produce the information on the 136,272 Selangor voters, while the Selangor government had on May 18 filed a cross-appeal, he said.

According to Fernandez and lawyer Latheefa Koya, the Selangor state government had on April 25 filed for an injunction or court order to stop the EC from continuing on with its second redelineation proposal without including Selangor. The case management for this application is fixed for June 1.