Court dismisses Melaka voters’ bid to challenge EC redelineation

File picture shows a map of redelineated constituencies on display at the Selangor EC office September 15, 2016. Voters have one month to file complaints, if any. — Picture by Kamles Kumar
File picture shows a map of redelineated constituencies on display at the Selangor EC office September 15, 2016. Voters have one month to file complaints, if any. — Picture by Kamles Kumar

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — The Court of Appeal today ruled that seven Melaka voters should not be allowed to continue their legal challenge of the Election Commission’s (EC) redelineation exercise.

Chan Tsu Chong, one of the seven voters and their spokesman, said the appellate court reversed the Melaka High Court’s previous decision for the legal challenge to go on.

“The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal by the AG and EC, which means they dismissed the earlier leave granted by the Melaka High Court,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted today, adding that no costs was awarded.

Chan said the judges did not give the detailed grounds for their ruling and only stated their agreement with the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ arguments for the EC.

The judges on the three-man panel today were Datuk Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid, Tan Sri Idrus Harun, and Datuk Hasnah Mohammed Hashim.

Today was the Court of Appeal’s hearing of the EC’s appeal against two Melaka High Court decisions — to grant the voters leave for judicial review (May 3) and to freeze the redelineation process in Melaka (May 12).

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.

The seven Melaka voters had asked 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.

Chan had in a court document listed five grounds for the legal challenge against the EC, 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.

The Melaka case is one of two crucial court cases that stood in the way of the EC’s bid to complete its redelineation exercise, as the voting regulator is required to review the electoral boundaries of all states of Peninsular Malaysia collectively as a single unit.

The seven voters can still appeal today’s decision, but Chan said they would have to discuss with the lawyers before deciding on whether to appeal to the Federal Court.

As for whether the EC would proceed with the local enquiries in Melaka, Chan said the EC would have to first inform the High Court of the Court of Appeal decision before proceeding with the local enquiries.

“Then after that, even if we appeal, I think the EC can do local enquiries and they will be probably rushing it through,” he said.

The EC had conducted the first round of local enquiries to hear objections to its redelineation proposals in all affected states in Peninsular Malaysia from October 31, 2016 to February 28, 2017 --- except in Selangor where a court order disallows it from doing so.

The EC then went on to conduct a second round of local enquiries in all affected Peninsular Malaysia states, except for Selangor where the court order is still in force and except for Melaka due to a similar court order.

The EC will have to complete all local enquiries in Selangor and Melaka before it can continue with the next stage of submitting a report on its finalised proposals for redelineation to the prime minister for approval by Parliament and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The voting boundaries will only be changed after the ruler approves the changes.

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