Last-minute candidates allowed entry to nomination centres, court told

SEREMBAN: Walk-in candidates, their proposers and seconders are allowed to file their papers on nomination day without the need for entry passes, the Election Court heard today.

Negeri Sembilan Election Commission (EC) director Afizam Abdullah Sani said in such cases, returning officers could not exercise their discretion to stop candidates.

“This exception is only applied to walk-in candidates, their proposers and seconders – no one else,” he said following a question by election judge Azimah Omar.

He said this privilege was provided for in the election guide book prepared for returning officers and their assistants, and under Regulation 4 (8) of the Conduct of Elections Regulations 1981.

The judge asked Abdullah where in the guidebook it was stated that returning officers had the discretion to stop candidates from filing their nomination papers if they decided to do so at the 11th hour.

Abdullah said returning officers had no discretion to refuse this but must allow them access to the nomination centre.

He was testifying in the election petition filed by PKR candidate Dr Streram Sinnasamy, who claimed the EC denied him the right to contest by refusing entry to the Sri Rembau nomination centre on April 28.

Under normal circumstances, candidates collect nomination forms at the EC, local government or district offices. They pay the deposit and collect entry passes to file their papers on nomination day.

Under cross-examination by Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, the witness told the court that his subordinate officer told him on nomination day that a candidate in Rembau was unable to enter the nomination centre as he had no pass.

It was later clarified that the affected candidate was Streram, as the Rantau state seat is under the Rembau parliamentary constituency.

During examination-in-chief and cross-examination, Abdullah insisted that entry to nomination centres was at the discretion of returning officers.

He also told the court that returning officer Amino Agos Suyub, who was in charge of accepting nomination papers for the Rantau seat, knew at about 9.30am that Streram, his proposer and seconder were waiting outside the hall to file their papers.

Nomination was between 9am and 10am.

Abdullah said at around 10.30am, he was in communication with Agos through text message, and lamented that there would be a petition filed against the EC since Streram was refused entry to file his nomination papers.

The witness said as state EC director, he could only advise Agos even though he was superior in position.

Streram, who filed his action on May 23, is seeking a declaration that Mohamad Hasan’s victory was illegal and that a by-election be held.

Mohamad, the former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar and Rantau assemblyman since 2004, won the seat unopposed.

Streram said the EC had breached provisions in the Election Offences Act 1954 and regulations when its officers did not order the police to allow him, his proposer and seconder into the nomination centre.

As a result, he said, although he was qualified, he was denied the constitutional right to contest in the election.