1:54PM Apr 9, 2014'Parliament has no power to stop third vote'Parliament has no power to pass provisions like Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976, which prohibits local government elections, lawyer Tommy Thomas has argued.3
This is ultra vires (beyond the powers of) the federal constitution, which allows states to hold such elections, he submitted before a five-member Federal Court panel led by Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif.
Thomas (left) is representing the Penang government and former Aliran president P Ramakrishnan, the petitioner in this case, in seeking to compel the Election Commission to restore local government elections in the state.
In 1965, prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra had temporarily suspended local government elections, due to the declaration of an Emergency during Indonesia’s ‘confrontation’ with Malaysia.
“The ban still stands despite what was practised between 1951 and 1965,” Thomas said.
In 2012, the Penang state legislative assembly passed the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment to revive the third vote, but has been stymied in its efforts to enforce it.
The state government and Ramakrishnan are seeking a declaration that Section 10 and 15 of the Local Government Act are ultra vires the federal constitution in relation to the state government’s powers.
Ramakrishnan (right) is further claiming that Section 15 deprives him of his right to liberty to vote in a local government election.
The question of law, to be decided by the bench - also comprising Justices Suriyadi Halim Omar, Ahmad Maarop, Md Apandi Ali and Ramly Ali - is whether Parliament has the power to enact laws relating to local government elections.
Tommy said federal law has to be challenged because local government elections are under the state government’s purview.
He further said that an amendment to the Local Government Act in 1991 had appeared to back the reinstatement of the third vote, but that nothing has been done to date.
Senior federal counsel Alice Loke, representing the federal government and the EC, insisted Section 15 of the Local Government Act is valid.
This, Loke said, is to provide uniformity of the law between the federal and state jurisdictions.
She disagreed that a distinction should be made between local governments and local government elections.
The hearing was initially fixed for the whole day. However, it appeared that the bench was hurrying Tommy through his submission.
Justice Md Raus told him several times that the judges had read the submission and to deliver his arguments in point form, and “not to treat us as students and lecture us”.
He then reserved the decision to another date.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (left), who was present, said the state has a strong case.
"For 50 years, we have been waiting to hold local government elections and to compel the EC to abide by our directive to hold this," Lim said.
"In the ninth schedule of the Federal Constitution, under the state lists, it is within the powers of the state to hold local government elections."