Federal Court scuppers bid to hold local elections in Penang

_DSC1172Putrajaya, 14 August: The Penang State Government’s bid hold local government elections has been scuppered when the Federal Court today rejected the state government’s application on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction.

The court held that it could not suspend provisions in the Local Government Act in order to allow elections to be held at the local government level, since such an exemption would be “against national policy”.

The state government and former Aliran President P. Ramakrishnan had jointly filed an application to the Federal Court to challenge the validity of provisions in the Local Government Act which it said violated the Federal Constitution.

The petitioners sought for the court to declare that section 10 and section 15 of the Act were invalid as it contravened the Federal Constitution. Section 15 abolishes the rights of the state governments to hold local government elections.

Following this morning’s decision, a panel of five judges chaired by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif unanimously held that section 10 and Section 15 of the Local Government Act were in fact constitutional.

“Parliament had enacted section 10 and section 15 under powers vested upon it under the Federal Constitution for the purpose of ensuring uniformity of law and policy in relation to local government which includes the local government elections,” he said.

The Penang state government was of the view that the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012 empowered the state to hold local government elections.

Since this state legislation was gazetted on 5 July 2013, the Penang state government claimed that it allowed the Election Commission the power to conduct local government elections within the state.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng expressed his disappointment that the State Government’s efforts to uphold democracy had failed. However he said the state government would abide with the Federal Court’s decision.

“This is common sense. If you can choose a Prime Minister, Menteri Besar or Chief Minister, we should also have to right to choose our Mayor and Local Councillors. They are the ones who decide on the tax rates and various matters involving our daily lives.

“We are very disappointed that our bid has been rejected again even though we have exhausted all legal avenues to restore the ‘third vote’ to the rakyat, but this has been denied by the Barisan Nasional government,” he said when met outside the Federal Court.

Guan Eng  He said the only recourse available was to convince the Local Government Council to hold elections or wait for a change in the Federal Government.

Local government elections have been abolished for 48 years, since March 1, 1965 since the Confrontation with Indonesia, then Premier Tuanku Abdul Rahman had promised to restore local democracy after the Confrontation ended.

However, the third vote has yet to be restored even until today.-The Rocket

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