Penang to pursue appeal against EC’s boundary redrawing

PUTRAJAYA: A lawyer today said the Penang government would pursue its appeal in the Federal Court against the Election Commission’s (EC) redelineation exercise despite returning to power in the May 9 election.

Leong Cheok Keng said the state wanted the apex court to determine whether the EC’s proposal to redraw electoral boundaries was subject to scrutiny by the courts.

“We want a ruling so that the EC will be guided when it carries out the next delineation in eight years’ time,” he told reporters after a proceeding in the Federal Court.

He added that the current legal position favoured the Pakatan Harapan federal government.

However, he said the Selangor government as well as voters elsewhere had filed judicial reviews last year to question the EC’s method of redrawing boundaries.

All legal challenges were thrown out, with the courts declaring that the EC’s proposals could not be questioned by way of judicial review.

The Court of Appeal ruled that aggrieved parties should attend local inquiries, or that MPs should challenge the EC’s recommendations when presented in the Dewan Rakyat.

Leong said Penang’s leave to appeal application had been adjourned due to some misunderstanding.

“I wrote to Attorney-General (AG) Tommy Thomas that the state would pursue the case, but a reply came that the government no longer represented the EC,” he said.

According to a statement issued by Thomas last month, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, being a government legal firm, would no longer appear for the EC as it was an independent body set up under the Federal Constitution to conduct elections.

However, Leong said the AG had to intervene as the Penang government was appealing the decision of the High Court following its refusal to grant leave for its complaints to be heard.

“The AG or his officers have the right to be present during the leave stage. If he has no objection to us getting leave, his presence is not required as lawyers for the EC will have to contest our judicial review application,” he said.

Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Maarop, who chaired a three-member bench, adjourned the matter to Aug 13 to get the views of Thomas.

On Feb 21, a three-member Court of Appeal bench chaired by Idrus Harun dismissed the state’s appeal, saying the judges were satisfied that the High Court did not commit any error in refusing leave.

The Penang government, which filed the action on June 5 last year, had sought a declaration that the recommendations submitted by the EC on March 8 were invalid as they violated Article 113 (6) of the Federal Constitution.

It also sought a declaration that the electoral roll used in the redelineation exercise was not the latest and that it lacked details allowing voters, the local authorities and the state government to challenge it.

The state wanted a certiorari order for the EC’s recommendations to be quashed and the 2016 electoral roll to be revoked.

It also sought a mandamus order for the EC to draw up fresh proposals.

However, on Nov 20, High Court judge Hadhariah Syed Ismail refused the state government leave to bring the complaints for hearing.

Penang govt fails again in bid to challenge EC’s boundary proposals