Bersih is against global settlement, says election judges are to blame


NOVEMBER 14, 2013

Any out-of-court settlement between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat to withdraw election petition appeals will set a bad precedent, polls reform group Bersih 2.0 warned today.

Its co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenivasan (pic) said election courts would continue to dismiss election petitions on technical grounds.

She said the courts would also impose exhorbitant costs when petitoners or respondents lost their cases.

"We are concerned because there will be no access to legal channels in future to obtain a remedy," she told The Malaysian Insider.

Her response came following reports that the BN and the opposition are discussing the possibility of a global settlement over 19 election petitions appeals pending before the Federal Court.

What this meant was that BN and PR would withdraw their suits which would also prevent the apex courts from making important legal pronouncements for future references.

Lawyers Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun and Datuk Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin, appearing for the BN, informed the Federal Court on Wednesday on the possibility of reaching a global settlement.

Parties have been given until December 2 to inform the court on the outcome of their discussion.

Almost all 70 election petitions earlier were struck out by election courts with costs as high as RM150,000.

The appellants are now in the Federal Court to have their election petitions reinstated and sent back to the election court to decide on their merits by way of a full trial.

Ambiga said it was clear that the costs factor had intimidated parties to settle the petitions without the Federal Court having to decide on the legal issues.

"This in itself is very oppressive and Bersih will not blame the parties because they are succumbing to pressures to settle," she said.

Ambiga said litigants would be very reluctant to come to court in future because they would be punished for bringing forward election disputes.

"I blame the election judges for the current situaton.

"And if left unchecked, they will make this (dismissing petitons on technical grounds and imposing high costs) a habit," she said.

Ambiga said Bersih would like the Federal Court to be given the chance to deal with the legal issues as petitions were thrown out on technical grounds.

She said electoral reforms could also come in the form of opinions from judges and Parliament could consider such views when amending or introducing new election laws. - November 14, 2013.