KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 — The Chief Justice of Malaysia should explain why there is an alleged “rushing” of two court challenges against the Election Commission’s (EC) redelineation exercise, polls reform group Bersih 2.0 said today.
Bersih 2.0 said lawyers for the two separate court challenges in Selangor and Melaka were today told that hearings will be fixed on June 20, leaving them with just slightly over a week to make preparations.
When contacted, Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah told Malay Mail Online that lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan is handling both cases in Melaka and Selangor and that “she already has another case on the same day”.
“But they refused to change the dates,” Maria said.
Bersih 2.0 said it wants an explanation as to why the two court cases against the EC’s redelineation exercise were “coincidentally” given hearing dates for which the lawyers are unable to ask for changes.
“It is extremely unusual for the Courts to force the parties to agree or to fix cases on dates where Counsels are not available, especially if there are other cases fix earlier,” the group’s steering committee said in a statement.
“The Chief Justice must explain why the necessity to rush and to have hearing dates brought forward without any reasons being assigned. The lawyers do require adequate time to prepare for these cases as they have an impact on all Malaysians,” it added.
Urging the Chief Justice and High Court judges to uphold the right to fair trial in both cases, Bersih 2.0 also stressed that time must be taken for both sides to present their arguments and for the courts to decide on appropriate actions.
“There is also no reason to rush as the EC has until August 2018 to finalise their proposals. Why force the courts to have such early dates?” it said.
According to Bersih 2.0, the Selangor state government’s appeal to obtain information from the EC was initially scheduled for July 6 but was abruptly brought forward today, where lawyers were told that the Chief Justice had directed that the hearing be fixed on June 20.
This June 20 date fixed today gives the lawyers less than five days to file their written submission and to be at the hearing within a week prior to Hari Raya, Bersih 2.0 said.
As for the Melaka case management for the EC’s appeal against the court’s previous ruling which paused redelineation activities there, lawyers for Melaka voters similarly faced the “same uncompromising directive” for a June 20 hearing date, the group said.
The Selangor and Melaka court cases were filed to get the courts to nullify and invalidate the EC’s alleged unconstitutional redelineation bid and the alleged use of defective electoral rolls with missing addresses for voters.
The 14th general election must be held by next year, but there is widespread speculation that it could be called earlier and held this year instead.
Lawyers had last month told Malay Mail Online that the EC will not be able to complete its redelineation exercise in Peninsular Malaysia without holding local inquiries in Selangor and Melaka — a process currently suspended in both states due to the ongoing court cases.
On Tuesday, local paper Oriental Daily reported EC chairman Datuk Mohd Hashim Abdullah as saying that the EC cannot use the new voting boundaries in the 14th general election if Selangor and Melaka are omitted from the redelineation plans.
The EC may have to use the current voting boundaries for constituencies in the upcoming general elections if it is unable to complete its redelineation plans by then, he said.