Wednesday, March 20

Court’s go-ahead sign of ‘poor health’ in democratic process — NGO

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KUCHING: A civil rights movement expressed its disappointment over the Federal Court’s dismissal of the application for leave to challenge the proposed re-delineation of the state’s electoral boundaries.

The Rise of Sarawak Efforts (Rose) believed that the court’s decision was reflective of the current ‘poor health’ of the democratic institutions in Malaysia.

“The decision has slammed shut whatever democratic space available that enables voters or citizens to participate in the re-delineation of electoral boundaries of our constituencies. Such participation is an internationally-recognised practice, but it seems not to be the case in Malaysia.

“How can a voter, or a group of 100 voters, even begin to have a say in the process of how electoral boundaries are re-drawn, when the notice and map published and issued by the EC (Election Commission) lack so many details?” it said in a press statement yesterday.

The Federal Court dismissed the appeal brought by Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How and Ulu Baram voter Pauls Baya against the re-delineation exercise based on three grounds – the matter was deemed ‘academic’; the 15 questions of law submitted by the applicants did not meet the threshold; and there was little prospects for the appeal to succeed even it were to be granted a leave.

“In ruling such, the highest court of the land has abdicated and divested itself of its most important function – upholding the principle of separation of powers between the three institutions in a parliamentary democracy.

“This is ironic as the EC’s stated vision is ‘to be an excellent electoral institution that conducts democratic elections and which enjoys the trust of the people’, while its mission statement is to ‘uphold parliamentary democracy and guarantee the rights of the people to elect their representatives by managing, supervising and conducting free and fair elections’.

“The action of the EC in its conduct of the Sarawak delineation, and also in the conduct of this court case has exposed that it is falling far short of its vision and statement,” Rose stressed.

The movement’s team leader Ann Teo said the decision by the Federal Court had not put a damper on any of the work and activities undertaken by Rose.