‘Unconstitutional’ redelineation will affect legitimacy of GE14 results, Malaysian Bar says

Malaysian Bar Council president George Varughese in Kuala Lumpur July 26, 2017. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Malaysian Bar Council president George Varughese in Kuala Lumpur July 26, 2017. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — The unfairness and unconstitutionality of the redelineation exercise will affect the legitimacy of the outcome of the upcoming election, the Malaysian Bar said today.

The peninsular legal body highlighted Section 2 of the Thirteenth Schedule of the Federal Constitution that stated that the number of electors within each constituency in a state ought to be “approximately equal”, but pointed out that the variation between the smallest and largest seat (by voter size) in Parliament has instead increased over time.

“The inherent unfairness, and unconstitutionality, of the redelineation exercise and its results may well cast a long and deep shadow over the legitimacy of the outcome of the upcoming 14th general election, as well as future general elections,” Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said in a statement.

He noted that in the 2018 redelineation exercise, the Damansara federal seat in Selangor had 150,439 voters, 8.53 times larger than the smallest constituency, Putrajaya, with 17,627 voters. Damansara, previously named Petaling Jaya Utara, is held by DAP, while Barisan Nasional (BN) controls the Putrajaya seat.

The Malaysian Bar also highlighted the difference between Damansara and the Sabak Bernam parliament seat in Selangor with only 37,126 voters, a difference of 4.05 times that is the largest disparity in any single state in the peninsula. Sabak Bernam is also held by BN.

“By disrespecting and totally disregarding the principle of ‘one person, one vote, one value’, the proposals are fundamentally flawed,” George said.

George also said that the redelineation exercise was dogged by procedural issues from the very beginning, starting from the redelineation exercise for the state of Sarawak where the proposals were presented for public review in January 2015. 

He cited the High Court case of See Chee How and Anor vs the Election Commission (EC), where the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak at Kuching had ruled the preliminary information provided was insufficient although the findings was reversed by the Court of Appeal, followed by the Federal Court’s refusal to grant leave to appeal on the grounds that the proposal had been submitted to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

George then stated a similar situation occurred in Peninsular Malaysia and found judicial pronouncements over the various legal challenges to be “appalling”.

“The courts appear to have denied litigants access to a legal remedy and, in so doing, failed to protect and uphold the Federal Constitution. 

“In particular, the decision of the Federal Court on 19 February 2018 — involving applications brought by two opposition Members of Parliament from Perak and seven voters from Melaka — where it was held that the proposals of the EC could not be judicially reviewed, because they were actions of the EC that did not bind parties, was astounding,” George said.

He then pointed out that the impact of the decision as well as the See Chee How and Anor vs the EC, is that the commission’s proposals can never be tested against the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

According to George, this is a “wholly untenable position”.

He also said that the Bar respects the doctrine of separation of powers in the Federal Constitution and called upon the legislative branch of the government to be independent and said it must be seen independent.

“It (Legislative) should not bow or tie itself to the Executive branch, and must oppose any attempt by the Executive branch to rush through legislation to meet the latter’s own political agenda and timetable. 

“The Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat should not act in a manner as to give rise to the irresistible impression that Parliament was but a mere rubber stamp for the exigencies of the Executive branch,” said George.

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