Penang files application in its fight for local democracy

PUTRAJAYA, 11 March — The Penang state government filed an application to the Federal Court on 11 March in its bid to hold local government elections, marking the state’s persistent commitment to restore local democracy for its approximately 2 million-strong citizens.

According to its Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, Penang is the first state to file such application.

“What we are doing today is a historic one in Malaysia, a first in 48 years since local elections were abolished on 1 March 1965. If we succeed, other states would follow our example,” Lim said.

Lim, also DAP Secretary-General said the application is in line with Article 113(4) of the Federal Constitution, which provided state governments the authority to hold local council elections through the Election Commission (EC).

“This [the application] involves state rights. We are not only urging the EC to conduct local government elections but also to restore the democratic system in our country,” he said.

Local government elections needed

Speaking at a press conference here, Lim further explained that the Penang state government is seeking a declaration from the Federal Court that the newly passed Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012 “effectively overrides” the federal law.

The enactment, passed by the Penang State Legislative Assembly on 1 May 2012 and gazetted in July 2012, was set to come into force on 31 January this year.

Currently Sections 10 and 15 of the Local Government Act 1976 prevent the state legislature from providing for local government elections within their states. The Penang petition seeks for the Federal Court to declare these sections as void since they contradict the provisions of the Federal Constitution.

A matter under state jurisdiction

Penang’s Pakatan Rakyat-led government has been consistently pushing for local government elections to be restored for the northern state’s two local councils, namely Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP) and Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai (MPSP).

Despite the matter of holding local elections falls under state jurisdiction, the Barisan Nasional-led federal government has repetitively hampered Penang’s efforts to restore local council elections in the state, with the response from the EC has been equally uncooperative.

“The state failed to obtain any commitment from the EC to conduct the elections for MPPP and MPSP in accordance with the enactment,” said Lim.

Lim and Aliran President P Ramakrishnan are named as petitioners, while lawyer Tommy Thomas represented the state government.

Also present during the application filing were Deputy Chief Minister I, Mansor Othman, alongside state exco members Chow Kon Yeow and Abdul Malik Abul Kassim. — The Rocket

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