Rama joins Penang government’s suit against Putrajaya over local council polls

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Former Aliran president P Ramakrishnan is joining the Penang state government in a suit against the federal government and the Election Commission to compel them to restore local council elections in Penang, writes Lim Guan Eng.

P Ramakrishnan - Photograph: Lye Tuck-Po
P Ramakrishnan – Photograph: Lye Tuck-Po

The Penang state government has no choice but to take the federal Government and the Election Commission to the Federal Court to compel the restoration of the third vote and local government elections for the Pennag Municipal Council (MPPP) and Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP).

Restoring the “third vote” has long been a fundamental demand and commitment of the Penang State Government since its election in 2008.

The state government takes the position that local government elections are a state matter under the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, and that the state Legislature has jurisdiction to provide for the holding of local elections under the Ninth Schedule and Article 113(4) of the Federal Constitution.

In May 2012, the Penang State Legislative Assembly passed the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012, which provides for the Election Commission to conduct local government elections in Penang.

The state government has informed the Election Commission that the Enactment would come into force in Penang by 31 January 2013; however the state government has failed to obtain any commitment from the Election Commission to conduct the elections to the MPPP and MPSP in accordance with the Enactment.

In line with its commitment to restore the third vote, the state government has now instructed its lawyers to apply to the Federal Court for leave to seek declarations that section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976 (federal law enacted by Parliament), which purported to abolish local government elections throughout Malaysia, is invalid or inoperative in Penang, and that the 2012 Enactment passed by the Penang State Legislature validly provides for the Election Commission to conduct local government elections in Penang.

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The state government will be joined in this suit by Mr P Ramakrishnan, a malaysian citizen, a registered voter that has voted in both state and federal election since 1964 and a former president of Aliran, who would like to vote in local government election. The state government has instructed that the necessary application be filed within the next two weeks.

The Penang state government will together with former Aliran president Ramakrishnan be the two plaintiffs in this historic suit against the Federal government and the Election Commission at the Federal Court.

Background

On 14 July 2009, YB Chow Kon Yeow, the State ExCo for Local Government and Traffic Management, wrote to the Federal Government to ask for local government elections to be put on the agenda of the National Council of Local Government, but this request was rejected.

On 11 August 2009, the State Legislative Assembly passed a resolution calling upon the Federal authorities to take action to reinstate local government elections, but this resolution was again rejected.

On 4 March 2010, the Penang state government wrote to the Election Commission asking it to conduct local government elections to the MPPP and MPSP under the Local Government Elections Act 1960, but the Election Commission refused.

On 18 January 2012, the state government exempted both the MPPP and the MPSP from section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976, which had rendered inoperative all legal provisions relating to local government elections.

On 9 May 2012, the State Legislative Assembly passed the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012, providing for the Election Commission to hold local government elections.

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On 18 December 2012, the state government wrote to the Election Commission informing it that the Enactment would be enforced as from 31 January 2013.

Lim Guan Eng is the current Chief Minister of Penang

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