Court nixes Selangor’s bid to question EC chief over dubious voters

By Ida Lim
EC chair Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah (pic) won't be questioned in court after the Selangor government's application was dismissed. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — The High Court today dismissed the Selangor government's application to question the Election Commission (EC) chairman over the inclusion of over 136,000 registered voters without addresses in its proposed redelineation exercise.

High Court judge Azizul Azmi Adnan noted that a cross-examination of EC chair Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah would not help the court determine if the proposed redelineation exercise can be carried out with only their locality or voting districts in the EC's records.

“In my judgment, the main issue is whether the delineation exercise can be properly carried out based on electoral roll that does not have addresses of some of the voters in Selangor.

“These are issues that may be addressed without cross-examination,” he said in his decision.

“We are not concerned why records were not kept, but whether the residency of a person within a particular constituency can be answered without his or her records being kept,” he added.

The High Court's decision today is on the Selangor government's January 13 discovery application to both obtain various information for its lawsuit against the EC and to cross-examine the EC chair.

The judge today granted an order for the EC to produce one of the six types of information sought by the Selangor government in its discovery application, namely a database of the locality codes and locality names of the 136,272 Selangor voters for the last two redelineation exercise of Peninsular Malaysia in 2003 and 1994.

The judge rejected the Selangor government's bid to compel the EC to produce the remaining five types of information, including the database of addresses of all 136,272 voters, their voter registration documentation, and the Electoral Geographical Information System computer software application built and used by the EC in the redelineation exercise.

These five types of information also included a request for documentation that could prove the EC had implemented recommendations in a parliamentary select committee's 2012 report for the electoral roll to be cleaned up, and the audit trail for all voters in Selangor that would track changes in their voter information since they became registered voters.

The discovery application said that the information sought was necessary due to disputes over facts and the accuracy of claims by those being sued by the Selangor government, adding that the cross-examination of the EC chair was necessary to resolve a dispute on whether there were unlawful changes to the records of voters' localities.

Last October 19, the Selangor government filed its lawsuit against the EC, the EC chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah and EC secretary Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh over the alleged unconstitutional redelineation exercise.

In his previous affidavit to support the Selangor government's legal challenge against the EC's proposed redelineation exercise, Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali argued that the EC had acted unconstitutionally by using a "defective" electoral roll containing 136,272 voters without their corresponding addresses listed.

Highlighting that the voters with missing records of residential addresses accounted for a high proportion of total voters in seats such as Sungai Air Tawar (38.93 per cent), Permatang (29.71 per cent), Sabak (26.04 per cent), Azmin had said the defective electoral roll would invalidate the EC's proposed bid to redraw boundaries of electoral constituencies and shift voters around in Selangor.

Azmin said that the composition of streets of polling districts may be changed during redelineation exercises, adding that the lack of voters' addresses that are equivalent to street addresses would mean the EC did not have the correct data on hand when proposing either new constituencies or maintaining the voters in their constituencies.

News portal Malaysiakini last week reported that the EC had in its affidavit replied that the lack of full addresses of voters was due to the EC's 2002 shift from a manual system to electronic system and confirmed that voter registration documents have been destroyed.

It had also reported Selangor government's lawyer, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, as highlighting the EC had the locality of the voters despite not having their full addresses, besides also saying the cross-examination of the EC chairman is required due to questions arising from the EC's assertion regarding the addresses and destroyed documents.

Both the Selangor government and the Attorney-General's Chambers which represents the four respondents will be appealing the judge's decision today on the discovery application.

The judge granted a stay on court proceedings for the ongoing hearing and fixed April 11 for case management.