Ex-judge: Caretaker govts might run foul of the law when using funds

PETALING JAYA: A former judge has sounded a warning of criminal liability if members of the federal or state caretaker governments use government funds or facilities during the interim before a new government is formed.

Use of funds or facilities by any member of the federal and state caretaker governments would amount to an abuse of power, said retired judge Gopal Sri Ram said.

“Members of the caretaker government who use or attempt to use funds, facilities or services may be criminally liable,” the former Federal Court judge told FMT.

His comments were made in response to the constitutional significance of the dissolution of Parliament and state legislative assemblies and its impact on the 15 million voters and every Malaysian.

Sri Ram disputed a statement by the Chief Secretary to the Government yesterday about the Cabinet and the form of a caretaker government.

Sri Ram asserted that the Cabinet, as defined by Article 43 of the Constitution, no longer existed when Parliament stood dissolved. “What is in existence is a caretaker government at the centre. The same thing applies to the states,” he said.

However, the Chief Secretary, Ali Hamsa, stated yesterday that the Cabinet continued to exist, performing the functions of a caretaker government. Ali also made reference to a Federal Court decision upholding the Cabinet as necessary to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Parliament was dissolved on Saturday. Eight states have followed suit so far, to pave the way for joint state and parliamentary elections.

Gopal Sri Ram said the caretaker federal and state governments were interim trustees of the nation and the states, and could not commit the country to any new obligation or to spend any money on any new projects.

The Election Commission had a role to act fairly in the conduct of the election which must be held within 60 days of the dissolution. “This is a high constitutional duty imposed on the EC,” he said, pointing to allegations in 2013 of attempts to add on votes in certain constituencies.

He said it was the duty of the courts to ensure that the EC acted lawfully. “However, the cases appear to show a reluctance on the part of the the higher judiciary to enforce the constitution against the EC,” he said.

At stake are 222 Parliamentary and 587 state seats for 12 state legislatures.