Penang seeks to set aside EC’s boundary redrawing exercise

Lawyer Leong Cheok Keng says the electoral boundaries passed by the Dewan Rakyat before GE14 are not in line with guidelines in the constitution.

PUTRAJAYA: The Penang government is seeking to compel the Election Commission (EC) to redraw the electoral boundaries, claiming the last exercise was not in line with the Federal Constitution.

Lawyer Leong Cheok Keng, appearing for the state government, said the redelineation exercise approved by the Dewan Rakyat just before the 14th general election (GE14) would remain in force for at least eight years as provided for under Article 113 (2) (ii) of the constitution.

“The electoral boundaries will also be applicable in the 15th general election, due in 2023,” he said.

He was responding to Federal Court judge Ahmad Maarop, who asked whether the matter was now academic since GE14 was over and the state had been a beneficiary of the redelineation exercise.

Ahmad had chaired a three-member bench to hear the state’s application for leave to appeal against a Court of Appeal ruling which upheld a High Court decision not to hear the merit of the complaint.

Also on the panel were judges David Wong Dak Wah and Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin.

Lawyer Chan Kok Keong, who appeared with Leong, urged the bench to hear the application and grant leave as it was an issue of public interest.

Ahmad also asked federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan whether he was representing Attorney-General (AG) Tommy Thomas or the EC since the applicant, the state government, was only asking for leave from the court as the matter was in the preliminary stage.

Ahmad referred to a statement on July 22 in which Thomas said the AG’s Chambers would no longer represent the EC in court.

Shamsul said his instruction was to represent the AG since they had also appeared in the High Court where leave was refused to the state.

The bench adjourned the matter for case management and to allow the EC to engage a lawyer.

The Penang government, which filed a judicial review on June 5 last year, had sought a declaration that the recommendations submitted by the EC on March 8, 2016, were invalid. It said 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, local authorities and the state government to challenge it.

It sought a certiorari order for the EC’s recommendations to be quashed and the 2016 electoral roll revoked. It also sought a mandamus order for the EC to draw up fresh proposals.

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

The Court of Appeal on Feb 21 this year also dismissed the Penang government’s appeal, saying aggrieved parties should attend local inquiries, or MPs should challenge the EC’s recommendations when presented in the Dewan Rakyat.