EC must call fresh polls for Batu, says former judge

By Debra Chong (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 – The Election Commission must call fresh polls for the Batu parliamentary seat immediately, former judge Datuk N.H. Chan said today.
The retired Court of Appeals judge was weighing in on the debate over whether PKR’s Chua Tian Chang, who was found guilty of biting a policeman and sentenced last week to a fine of RM2,000, had lost his seat as the elected representative of Batu.
“If it is RM2,000 and above, he is out. By fining the man RM2,000, he is automatically disqualified as a member of Parliament,” Chan told The Malaysian Insider over the phone from Ipoh today.
“Once disqualified, the Election Commission (EC) must hold a by-election. It is their duty,” he added and stressed that the independent body was not required by law to wait for official notice of a vacancy in the Batu parliamentary seat from the Dewan Rakyat Speaker.
“Karpal Singh is right, and so is Tommy Thomas,” the 75-year-old said, referring to the two veteran lawyers who had previously commented on the issue.
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The Election Commission had initially mulled calling for a by-election for Batu but later said it will wait for Parliament to decide.
Karpal, who is also the DAP chairman, had firmly stated last week that his Pakatan Rakyat (PR) ally was no longer the Batu MP and pointed to Article 48 of the Federal Constitution, which states that any person sentenced to jail for not less than one year or to a fine of not less than RM2,000 and has not received a royal pardon is disqualified from being a member of Parliament.
The Bukit Gelugor MP also cited the 1975 case of Fan Yew Teng, a DAP man who lost his Menglembu seat after he was charged with sedition, found guilty and sentenced to a fine of RM2,000.
Karpal also said his party was ready to face fresh polls in Batu. He was backed by PAS, the other member of PR.
However, with the exception of Umno’s Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) has been mum on the prospects of facing a by-election after losing the Sibu seat to the DAP last month.
The minister from the Prime Minister’s Department noted that the High Court judge’s intention to reduce Chua’s initial fine from RM3,000 to RM2,000 was to avoid wasting public funds on another by-election.
Uncharacteristically, Nazri sided with his PKR rival MP, saying Chua was still the MP for Batu despite the court ruling and so, there was no need for the EC to call for fresh polls.