Lawyer: EC breached constitutional duty by breaking up Selangor’s multiracial communities

Picture shows a map of redelineated constituencies on display at the Selangor EC office September 15, 2016. — Picture by Kamles Kumar
Picture shows a map of redelineated constituencies on display at the Selangor EC office September 15, 2016. — Picture by Kamles Kumar

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 — The Election Commission (EC) failed its constitutional duty by not considering the breaking up of multiracial communities in Selangor as a result of its proposed bid to redraw voting boundaries, the High Court here was told.

Derek Fernandez, a lawyer representing the Selangor state government, pointed out the EC’s obligations under the Federal Constitution to consider the “maintenance of local ties” when carrying out redelineation exercises.

“I would submit if it’s accepted or found that voters have been moved on the basis of their race and political affiliations and the communities are broken up, multiracial communities are no longer the same as’s a matter that ought to have been considered by the EC,” he said.

Another lawyer representing the Selangor government, Datuk Cyrus Das, had earlier today pointed out the EC’s plan to allegedly shift voters from one seat to another based on their ethnicity and their voting patterns, giving various examples such as the proposed transformation of Seri Andalas to be a super-majority Malay seat and Klang to be a Chinese seat.

Fernandez noted that the EC’s lawyer had last week told the court that the election regulator had not evaluated the possible consequences of voters movement according to ethnicity or political leanings that may have arisen from the proposed redelineation.

He also argued the EC had failed to fulfil its constitutional obligations — also under Clause 2(c) of the Federal Constitution’s Thirteenth Schedule — to consider the inconveniences that local authorities would suffer because of the proposed redelineation.

Citing a report by electoral expert Wong Chin Huat, Fernandez said the academic had argued the EC’s splitting up of a single constituency into multiple areas that are governed by multiple local authorities with varying budgets and administration methods would complicate things for lawmakers.

Citing the same report, the lawyer also pointed to practical difficulties that would arise from the EC’s proposed renaming of several parliamentary seats and state seats in Selangor, as local councils would have to incur extra costs to change road signs, besides re-evaluating assessment rates to be paid by property owners based on the changed areas.

The EC’s redrawing of voting boundaries that are traditionally adopted by local authorities would cause administrative inconvenience and complicate efforts to fight and control the spread of diseases like dengue, as some new voting areas may now come under multiple local authorities instead of one previously, he said.

The statistics used by local authorities to keep track of the history of vector spread and eradication would also be affected due to the change in voting boundaries, he said, noting that the local authorities should have been given time for a transitionary period to prepare.

Fernandez pointed out that the Selangor state government has, in a court document, said the EC did not approach it or the local authorities in Selangor to find out the inconveniences they may suffer before proposing the redelineation exercise.

The EC’s failure to both consider the inconveniences that may be caused when constituencies are altered and the maintenance of local ties before its redelineation bid meant that it had acted unconstitutionally, he said.

Noting that the EC has a total period of two years to complete the redelineation process which it started last September, he said there was “no rush” as they still have one and a half years if the court was to declare the EC’s proposed redelineation exercise as invalid.

“There’s no prejudice, there’s nothing stopping them if the court were to in fact set aside and declare the process not proper. They are definitely welcome to come back to discuss with the relevant stakeholders and come out with a proposal that complies more closely with 2(c) and 2(d),” he said, referring to the EC’s obligations under the Constitution’s Thirteenth Schedule.

Today is the continued hearing of the Selangor state government’s challenge against the EC’s redelineation bid — which among other things includes the renaming of constituencies and the transferring of voters through the redrawing of voting boundaries.

The hearing before High Court judicial commissioner Azizul Azmi Adnan will resume on February 7.

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