KLANG,. A special tribunal to seek the removal of six former Election Commission (EC) members descended today into confusion after a lawyer appointed by the Attorney General’s Chambers said it was an academic matter since they have already resigned.
At the start of the first day of the hearing, M. Puravelan informed the five-member panel comprising former Federal Court judges that the matter, regardless of any decision made, would not serve the intended purpose of removing the said EC members.
This caused clear annoyance among the judges, who then started questioning the lawyer who was appointed as an officer to assist the tribunal at the Klang Court here.
“The ultimate purpose of the whole exercise is to seek the removal of the EC members for misconduct.
“However given the fact that the EC members have already tendered their resignation from the EC, the question arises as to whether it serves any use,” tribunal chairman Tan Sri Steve Shim Lip Kiong said.
Panellist Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar said the matter was “gone” since the government has accepted the EC commissioners’ resignations and Puravelan himself said it was academic.
“So as my learned chairman says, convened here for? Are we just going to rubber stamp?” he questioned.
Puravelan however explained to the panel that he was duty bound to inform the tribunal of the legal position of the case at hand.
“As an officer of the court, I am duty bound to inform, that that is the legal position of the Malaysian law and Common law,” he answered.
Putrajaya had announced the setting up of the tribunal on October 17 last year. Five of the EC Commissioners — Tan Sri Othman Mahmood, Datuk Md Yusop Mansor, Datuk Abdul Aziz Khalidin, Datuk Sulaiman Narawi and Datuk Leo Chong Cheong — then resigned the following day.
The last remaining commissioner, Datuk K. Bala Singam, resigned the following month on November 27.
The court was informed that all their resignations took effect on January 1 this year.
During the proceeding today, the judges also questioned Datuk Shaharudin Ali, the lawyer representing four of the six ex-EC officers, asking him to state the point of the proceeding today, and if it should continue.
In his reply, Shaharudin supported Puravelan’s stance, arguing that the ex-judges had “no business” in the tribunal since the matter is non-existent.
This annoyed Datuk Prasad Sandosham Abraham, Tan Sri Zaleha Zahari and Tan Sri Jeffrey Tan Kok Wai. Suriyadi expressed discomfort over the use of such words and asked that Shaharudin be kind to the panel members.
“Counsel, we want to be kind to you, you have to be kind to us also,” he said, upon which Shaharudin then apologised and corrected himself.
Abraham, Zaleha, and Tan then grilled the lawyers on the legitimacy of their appointments, reminding both sides that they were lawfully appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to preside over the tribunal.
“Is it your position that the King should not have agreed for this tribunal?” Abraham questioned Shahrudin.
“That also appears to be my position,” Shaharudin replied.
But Tan insisted that Shaharudin had been arguing that position to the panel, after which Shaharudin concurred.
Zaleha told Shaharudin that the panel had already been appointed.
“So you can’t go back to that extent that we have no business to be here. But what we do, must be limited to the case in point today. There’s no need to drag this,” she said.
After both Puravelan and Shaharudin’s teams agreed that the matter was already academic, Shim adjourned the proceeding and announced that the judges will deliberate and deliver their verdict soon at a later date.
Previously, in tracing back the setting up of the tribunal, Attorney General Tommy Thomas noted that “serious allegations of misconduct” had been levelled against the EC for its role in the preparation and conduct of the 14th general elections, before and on polling day itself on May 9, 2018.
As a result of the allegations, Thomas said the prime minister had made representations to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that the six remaining EC members should be investigated and be subject to a possible removal from office by a tribunal of judges if serious misconduct is found, in line with Articles 114(3) and 125(3).
Thomas said lawyers who will be assisting the five-man tribunal are Puravalen from the Malaysian Bar, Kogilambigai Muthusamy and Ann Khong Hui Li from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, with Ann Khong to also be the tribunal secretary.