Thursday, November 14, 2013

‘Global settlement’ settles nothing, say Bersih co-chief, MPs

November 14, 2013

Ambiga countered that the law expressly allows for election petitions to challenge polls result that were in dispute. — AFP pic
Ambiga countered that the law expressly allows for election petitions to challenge polls result that were in dispute. — AFP pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — Barisan Nasional’s (BN) proposed blanket settlement for outstanding election petitions will not resolve the underlying issues behind the disputes even if it ends the legal wrangling, opposition lawmakers and polls reformists said yesterday. They argued that such a settlement would simply prevent scrutiny over the alleged problems, instead of allowing the Federal Court to determine once and for all if aggrieved parties can seek justice when faced with instances of alleged electoral misconduct. 
“A settlement will effectively sweep everything under the carpet, everything that is wrong with the system, as opposed to being addressed by the highest court,” Bersih co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan told The Malay Mail Online when met at the court complex here.
“It may sweep serious issues under the carpet as opposed to allowing the Federal Court to adjudicate on it but ultimately it depends on the terms of the settlement,” she added. Yesterday, BN lawyers proposed the settlement deal, which calls for both BN and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to withdraw all election petitions against results of the 13th General Election still pending appeal at the Federal Court. The counsel for the ruling coalition said the offer was put on the table as they believed that the courts should not be used “as a means to change the government”, while at the same time seek an amicable solution to the current standoff. 
Ambiga countered that the law expressly allows for election petitions to challenge polls result that were in dispute. “Bringing an election petition is a right of the party, and given some of the serious allegations that have been brought forward, we hope that the court will have a chance to decide on these issues,” she said. 
DAP’s Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo noted that far from deciding a new government through the courts, a victorious petition will merely send the contest back to the ballot box. “If we’re successful, there’ll be a re-election. It’s up to the people to decide. We’re seeking fresh elections on grounds that elections earlier were tainted with irregularities,” he said. Gobind added that the petitioners need to stay the course as they have all suffered summary disposal of their applications by the Election Court on purely technical grounds, without even being heard. “The Federal Court must make a ruling on that, to determine what has happened at the High Court, whether the approach taken is correct. This is important for future litigation,” he said. 
PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali agreed that the issue went beyond seeking an amicable solution, and spoke of a serious need to address the allegations of polls irregularities raised by the opposition. “The issue is far greater than that. It’s not just a matter of settlement. There are other issues pertaining to this, regarding the SPR and all,” he said, referring the Malay acronym for the Election Commission. But some are at least entertaining the proposal, wary of the extreme financial costs associated with seeing the petitions through to the end. 
PKR vice-president and Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said that PR petitioners need to be practical when considering their options, especially since this is the last chance that they can legally challenge the outcome of the May national polls. “We’re still mediating. We must be mindful of the exorbitant costs, we must be mindful of the limitations under the current law whereby election petitions can be struck out based on mere technicalities,” she said. 
Gelang Patah MP and senior DAP leader Lim Kit Siang echoed the sentiment on the heavy costs imposed by the Election Court on failed petitions, which he described as “excessive” and “indefensible”. “That should be one of the issues to be dealt with, but even if that is taken into account, what should be the attitude (in negotiating a settlement)? We need the full details before we can say more,” he said. 
PAS’s Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, meanwhile, said that BN must provide some consideration beyond extending the olive branch. “There must be something on top of that. Some form of reform, so that in future, the hands of the court are not tied. Make sure that things like these do not happen again. They have to ensure that there are fairer elections,” he said. 
PR and BN filed at least 56 election petitions across the country, 35 of which were by the opposition while the ruling coalition put in 21 submissions. None of the petitions was successful, leaving political parties to pay the costs running into millions of ringgit after the Election Court imposed some of the highest costs on petitioners in the history of the country’s elections. Currently, holding the record for the most expensive failure in the Kuala Berang petition, which saw the Election Court in Kuala Terengganu order PAS to pay RM150,000 in costs.

No comments:

Post a Comment