GE14 date: Voters have grounds to challenge EC, says ex-judge

PETALING JAYA: A retired judge said the Election Commission (EC) has the power to fix the polling date but it should have scheduled it on a day that is convenient for all voters.

“Like all authorities, it must exercise its powers fairly and reasonably,” former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram said.

He said citizens have the right to ask the EC to change the date as, traditionally, polling day in this country was fixed during the weekend.

“The departure from this usual practice is grounds for challenge by voters.

“But as I have said earlier, except for one or two brave spirits, the higher judiciary does not enforce the constitution against the EC,” he told FMT in a WhatsApp message.

Sri Ram said this in response to the announcement by the EC today that the polling date for the 14th general election (GE14) will fall on May 9, a Wednesday.

Nomination day has been fixed on April 28.

Under the constitution, the EC has 60 days, or up to June 6, to conduct the election.

Former Malaysian Bar president Ragunath Kesavan said it was mandatory for employers to allow workers a “reasonable” period for voting without deduction in wages.

“What is ‘reasonable time’ is subjective and not defined under the Elections Offence Act,” he said.

Ragunath, who specialises in labour and industrial law disputes, said any employer who refused his workers in any manner could be fined up to RM5,000 or a maximum one-year jail term if convicted.

He said the EC could reschedule the nomination and polling dates if its decision had not been gazetted yet.

Alternatively, Ragunath called for Prime Minister Najib Razak to declare polling day a public holiday nationwide.

“If not, the heads of government in non-BN-ruled states (Penang, Selangor and Kelantan) could declare public holidays to help voters in their territories,” he said.

Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla said it appeared that the EC had bowed to Najib’s pressure to conduct the polls on a weekday.

“It will deprive many voters opposed to BN to come out and cast their ballots due to work,” he said.

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Polling day on May 9, campaigning period 11 days