AG, Bersih disappointed tribunal hearing against EC members’ misconduct will not proceed

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
Attorney General Tommy Thomas delivers his opening speech during the Bar Council’s public forum at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall May 4, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — Attorney General Tommy Thomas today expressed disappointment with the recommendations of a special tribunal that announced its decision to no longer proceed its probe into alleged election offenses by six retired Election Commission (EC) members after deeming the matter academic.

Thomas said he was disappointed with the reasoning given by tribunal chairman Tan Sri Amar Steve Shim Lip Kiong today who said the matter in question was already academic, adding the probe would not worth the expense and energy considering the ultimate aim to remove the implicated EC members had been met with their early retirement.

“I think what is disappointing about the majority recommendation is that they seemed to have decided based on time and energy that may be spent.

“I think right thinking people in Malaysia will ask the question of, does it matter if it’s (the tribunal) going take two months and if it is expensive to inquire the truth,” he said following the announcement at the Asian International Arbitration Centre here today.

Thomas lamented on the panel’s decision to cite time and energy as one of the main factors behind their stop in further proceedings, then quoting famous English judge Lord James Atkin who had pointed out in a judgment how convenience and justice did not go hand in hand.

The tribunal, its formation announced in October last year following the allegations brought forward by Bersih 2.0 against the EC, today announced their majority recommendations to not go ahead, with Shim going on to say the probe would have been an ‘exercise in futility’.

“So you do not take into account convenience, and if the majority took into account convenience then it is very disappointing; the minority recognised the importance of the matter that is the democratic process at stake,” Thomas exclaimed.

“All of us who took part in the elections would be disappointed because we knew exactly what happened and to say that the country can’t afford time and convenience to investigate the matter is not correct, the country can afford it,” he added.

He included that he would advise the government to make the judgments of each panel member be made accessible on public domain once a copy of it is obtained.

Meanwhile, Bersih 2.0 Chairman Thomas Fann also felt let down with the recommendation of the panel, saying the complaints made by them were not made frivolously.

“We had been looking forward to the tribunal going on, simply because I think in a sense it would, for us, vindicate our assertion so far that we did not have free and fair elections despite the result,” he said.

Fann explained how the election watchdogs were also looking forward to the interpretations of the Federal Constitution by the retired Federal Court judges who were part of the tribunal.

“(What is) more important is that we were looking forward to some guidance from the tribunal itself on how, for example, boundaries should be delineated; their interpretation of the constitution,” he added.

The tribunal was announced by Putrajaya on October 17 last year to seek the removal of the six EC members, namely Tan Sri Othman Mahmood, Datuk Md Yusop Mansor, Datuk Abdul Aziz Khalidin, Datuk Sulaiman Narawi and Datuk Leo Chong Cheong, and Datuk K. Bala Singam.

The next day, all the members then resigned from their positions and opted for early retirement, with Bala following suit on November 27.

The tribunal was set out to probe the six after thirteen charges were framed against them over their roles in preparing a controversial re-delineation report and the manner in which GE14 was conducted.

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