Ex-EC members can’t be tried as king approved shortened tenures, tribunal told

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

KUALA LUMPUR: Six former Election Commission (EC) members cannot be tried for misconduct as the king had allowed their request to shorten their tenure, a tribunal heard today.

Lawyer A Srimurugan said it was following this that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad made a representation to the king that they be suspended pending the establishment of the tribunal.

“A tribunal cannot be set up when the king allowed them to leave before their mandatory retirement,” said the lawyer, who is representing K Bala Singam, one of the former commissioners.

Others appearing before the five-member tribunal are former EC deputy chairman Othman Mahmood, and EC members Md Yusop Mansor, Abdul Aziz Khalidin, Sulaiman Narawi and Leo Chong Cheong.

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

The EC came under fire during the 14th general election from Pakatan Harapan (PH) and NGOs who accused it of acting in favour of Barisan Nasional.

Srimurugan said Bala Singam’s request was approved by the king on Nov 29, while the others received approval on Oct 18. All of them left office effective Jan 1 this year.

He said the prime minister obtained assent from the king to set up the tribunal on Dec 5.

“The attorney-general did not issue any suspension letters against the six after approval to set up the tribunal was given,” he said.

Srimurugan said the AG should have advised the king to revoke the request sought by the six as shortening of term was not provided for in the Federal Constitution.

“Instead, the attorney-general only issued a statement that the six ‘resigned’ to escape punishment, which is not true,” he said.

Srimurugan said EC members, like judges, leave office after reaching the mandatory retirement age, or resign. They can be removed from office as provided under Article 114 of the Federal Constitution.

Lawyer Shahrudin Ali, representing Othman, Yusop, Aziz and Sulaiman, said the proceeding was academic as the former EC members no longer held office.

“A tribunal can only carry out its function if the EC members are still in office or suspended,” he said.

Shahrudin said conducting officer M Puravalen, who was sacked by Attorney-General Tommy Thomas for disobedience, was correct in law when he stated the proceeding could not go on as the six were no longer in office.

“Puravalen’s submission on Jan 28 is legally binding and the attorney-general cannot now make a U-turn,” he said, adding that Thomas had recourse against the conducting officer at a different forum.

Thomas had earlier submitted that he could make a fresh submission as Puravelan had not followed his instruction.

“In any event, we are allowed to depart from the earlier submission (by Puravelan) as proceeding has not started,” he said.

He also said this was a public interest matter as the EC must enjoy public confidence and it was the first time a tribunal of this nature had been set up.

Thomas said the proceeding was not academic as the tribunal could recommend to the king that their pensions from serving the EC be taken away.

Lawyer K Kumaraendran, who also represented Bala Singam, told the tribunal that it was unfair of Thomas to make accusations against Puravelan as he was not present to defend himself.

The tribunal, comprising Steve Shim, Zaleha Zahari, Suriyadi Halim Omar, Jeffrey Tan and Prasad Sandosham Abraham, will deliver its ruling on whether or not the matter is academic on a date to be fixed.