Local elections: EC to study Penang request

By Husna Yusop (The Sun)
PUTRAJAYA (March 7, 2010): The Elections Commission (EC) will study the request by the Penang chief minister for it to hold local government elections in the state and Seberang Prai municipal councils.
Its deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said they would have to meet with the legal experts in order to make a decision on the matter.
“We have to refer to our legal advisor and the Attorney-General’s Chambers first. Only after listening to their advice, can we decide whether we can comply with the request.
“The provisions on elections under the Local Council Act are not in effect because they have been suspended since 1965. Without such laws, we are not sure whether such elections can be done or not,” he told theSun in a phone interview today.
However, Wan Ahmad said, as at Friday, the EC has yet to receive the official letter from Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, which he had sent on Thursday.
Lim said Penang state exco on Wednesday has unanimously agreed for local elections to be held and he had sent a letter to EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof.
Lim also said Penang was granting powers to the EC under Article 113(4) of the Federal Constitution which provided for federal and state laws to authorise it to conduct elections other than that for Parliament or the state assembly.
To expedite and smoothen the process, he also said they were willing to hear the EC’s views and meet up with them to see how it can be carried out.
Wan Ahmad said the EC will make a decision based on the laws and assured that it will not act based on the personal interest of anyone or the political interest of any parties.
Meanwhile, when contacted, Bar Council chairman Ragunath Kesavan said lawyers were divided over whether it was valid or not for the state government to make such request to the EC.
“I don’t think the EC would comply. They may take the position not to conduct the local council election because the provisions have been suspended.
“There is no consensus among the lawyers on this. Some said under the federal constitution, local council election is a state matter. The argument now is whether one overrides the other or not,” he added.
Ragunath said local council elections could not be done unless the provision is amended, and to amend the provisions, a motion has to be tabled and passed by the parliament.
Meanwhile in SHAH ALAM, Bernama reports that Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said more studies are needed before local government elections can be implemented in the state.
“We have done several studies on local government elections as it is a big change aimed at strengthening local authorities. The democratic process must not make people lose out,” he said at Selangor Pakatan Rakyat Convention here today.
He was commenting the Penang government’s decision to send a letter to the EC proposing local government elections for the Penang and Seberang Perai Municipal Council.
Khalid said the Selangor government would send a letter to EC seeking clarification and approval for local government elections.
“We want clarification as the law is still not clear on this. We don’t want to spend millions of ringgit only for the elections to be declared null and void,” he added. — theSun