Bersih withdraws landmass suit against EC

 |Feb 13, 2017

Bersih has withdrawn its appeal against the decision of the High Court to refuse leave for a judicial review application against the Election Commission (EC).

According to a statement by Bersih, they are concerned that if continued with the appeal the outcome would not be favourable and additionally may operate as a precedent that would have adverse effect on other pending and future delineation law suits filed against the EC.

On Nov 24 last year, the KL High Court Judicial Commissioner Azizul Azmi Adnan dismissed Bersih chief Maria Chin Abdullah’s bid to obtain leave to challenge the EC’s proposed redelineation exercise.

The basis of Maria’s application was that the redelineation notice published by the EC was severely lacking in detail, in particular on the crucial information of landmass.

Maria subsequently appealed against this decision to the Court of Appeal.

On January 23, 2016, Maria’s lawyers were informed that a special panel of judges will be hearing the appeal at the Court of Appeal.

The same special panel was also assigned to sit on Nurul Izzah Anwar’s judicial review application against the EC.

In those proceedings, the Attorney-General is appealing against the High Court’s decision to grant leave to the judicial review application by Nurul Izzah and ten voters.

Their judicial review application is to quash the EC’s proposal to redraw the Lembah Pantai parliamentary seat.

We consider it to be unusual to have such a special panel convened to hear these appeals, especially when it was not requested by any of the parties, said Bersih.

The High Court decision in Maria’s case follows the Court of Appeal decision in the Sarawak delineation case in 2015 which endorsed the EC’s standpoint that only minimal information has to be disclosed when a redelienation exercise is proposed.

“This lack of information, Maria opines is a serious compromise of the voters’ ability to scrutinise and challenge the EC’s proposals effectively and competently, and as such gives the EC an unfair advantage in proposing any redelineation to constituencies they deem necessary.

“The lack of landmass information has impaired any objection by interested parties to challenge the EC on whether due weightage has been given in EC’s proposal in accordance with the Thirteenth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.” added in the statement.

If left unchecked and unchallenged, the EC would be allowed to decide on the kind of information that needs to be made available to the public, and that only the bare minimum of information regarding the proposed redelineation exercise would be disclosed, highlighted Bersih.

Maria’s suit and subsequent appeal against the High Court decision was to stop the EC’s insidious act of deliberately denying state governments, local councils, and voters the land mass information, which effectively hampers the stakeholders’ ability to raise effective objections to the redelineation exercise.

“We regret that our leave was not granted in the High Court and now circumstance has also led us to stop our pursuit in the Court of Appeal.

“Notwithstanding our withdrawal, we believe Maria’s legal challenge has helped to draw public attention to this important issue.

“Bersih will continue working to expose the EC’s insidious actions and decisions to subvert democracy in the redelineation exercise.

“They should remember all their actions are now monitored and documented by Bersih and concerned citizens. Those personally responsible in violating Article 113(2) and the 13th Schedule will be held accountable for their actions someday.”