No impunity for ex-EC members, says Bersih

Some of the former members of the Election Commission. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 said former election commissioners who ran the 14th general election must be made answerable for the serious charges levelled against them.

It said although the former commissioners are innocent until proven guilty, they should not be allowed to escape judicial scrutiny “easily and conveniently” by their resignations.

“This will send a completely wrong message to other public officials,” it said.

On Thursday, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said the outcome of the tribunal to investigate allegations of misconduct by the six will not be academic.

He said the Constitution provides for appropriate action to be taken against them based on recommendations to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Following his statement, a lawyer appearing for one of the former EC members said the 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,” R Kengadharan said.

The six former commissioners – Othman Mahmood, Md Yusop Mansor, Abdul Aziz Khalidin, Sulaiman Narawi, Bala Singam Karupiah and Leo Chong Cheong – quit shortly after the government’s announcement that a tribunal would investigate claims of misconduct against them.

The tribunal has reserved judgment after hearing the case this week.

In its statement today, Bersih questioned why the six had resigned before the tribunal started its hearing.

“If they are confident that they have done nothing wrong, why would they resign once the news of the establishment of the tribunal was reported in the press?

“Isn’t this an attempt to thwart the proceedings of the tribunal?

“It would be unjust and an impunity if these former commissioners are allowed to roam free, including continuing to enjoy pension, benefits and welfare as former public officials, while serious allegations against them remain uncleared,” it said.

Bersih also drew attention to the mandate of the tribunal.

First, it said, it is a truth-seeking process to carry out an investigation of alleged past abuse by the EC members and eventually form the basis of possible action to be taken against them.

Second, the tribunal is mandated to recommend to the Agong the appropriate action to be taken against them if they are found guilty of misconduct before and during the general election.

“They should not be allowed to escape justice through their resignations. If they are found guilty, their pension should be forfeited, at the very least.

“There is an urgent need to restore public confidence in the EC’s independence and impartiality, and the tribunal is the best way to do it.

“It will send a stern warning to all public officials to carry out their duties responsibly, which is crucial for the rule of law and democracy of our beloved country,” it said.