AG’s comments on ex-EC members disrespectful to tribunal, says lawyer

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas has come under fire for his remarks on the six former EC members under investigation for alleged misconduct. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has taken the attorney-general (AG) to task over his statement that the six former Election Commission (EC) members under investigation by a tribunal over alleged misconduct during the May 9 polls will not escape punishment despite having resigned last year.

R Kengadharan, who is appearing for one of the former EC members, said AG Tommy Thomas’ remark was “disrespectful” and had tarnished the image of the six.

“The AG’s statement, which is totally opposite to the position taken by his conducting officer during proceedings on Monday, is not respectful to the tribunal,” Kengadharan said.

He added that Thomas’ remark could be seen as a move to exert pressure on the tribunal members who will decide if it is feasible to continue with the hearing.

M Puravelan, the lawyer appointed by the AG’s Chambers to assist the tribunal, had said the findings would be largely academic since the EC members had already quit the institution.

However, Thomas accused them of trying to frustrate the tribunal’s investigations by resigning and attempting to “avoid the ignominy of being removed”.

All six of them resigned from the EC following the announcement that the government had begun setting up the tribunal.

The tribunal, which is made up of Steve Shim, Zaleha Zahari, Suriyadi Halim Omar, Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha and Prasad Sandosham Abraham, is expected to deliver its ruling on whether the matter is academic on a date to be fixed.

Thirteen charges have been framed against the six former EC members in connection with their role in preparing the redelineation report and the manner in which the May 9 polls were conducted.

The six are Othman Mahmood, Md Yusop Mansor, Abdul Aziz Khalidin, Sulaiman Narawi, Bala Singam Karupiah and Leo Chong Cheong.

Kengadharan, who is representing Cheong, said he did not rule out some form of legal action against the AG or government over the next few days.

“As far as we are concerned, no proceedings for misconduct can be instituted once the king has accepted the resignation of EC members,” he said.

Meanwhile, lawyer Ragunath Kesavan asked why former EC chairman Hashim Abdullah had been excluded from the tribunal as he would be regarded as the most culpable for any misconduct.

“Hashim was responsible for the day-to-day decision-making process, including his role in the redelineation exercise to alter election boundaries,” he said.

Hashim, 64, resigned from the EC effective July 1. He was replaced by lawyer Azhar Harun.

The EC came under heavy fire during the 14th general election from Pakatan Harapan and its supporters, who accused it of acting in favour of Barisan Nasional.