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Thursday, February 28, 2019

AG: Tribunal can recommend stripping ex-EC members of retirement benefits



The tribunal tasked with investigating the conduct of six former Election Commission (EC) members can recommend that their post-retirement gratuity be revoked if wrongdoings are established, said attorney-general Tommy Thomas.

Reiterating that the tribunal is not academic, he said it can still recommend to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that he remove them from office. The tribunal could also spell out the consequences of such a removal.
Thomas said EC members are given the security of tenure to conduct free and fair elections and if there are complaints, the tribunal should look into the matter.
“It is important for the tribunal to perform its historical function by inquiring into the nature of the complaints. Its findings could set a precedent on how the EC should perform its functions.
“It is simplistic to say that the job of the tribunal is only to recommend their removal or otherwise,” he told the tribunal in Kuala Lumpur today.
Proper venue needed
Meanwhile, lawyers representing the former EC members argued that the Federal Constitution only allowed the tribunal to propose the removal of an EC member to the king.
Therefore, they said the matter is moot as the six vacated office effective Jan 1.
During today's proceedings, lawyer Shaharudin Ali said since EC members are treated like judges under the Federal Constitution, the proper venue to decide a course of action other than removal from office is the equivalent of a lesser tribunal that decides cases of minor misconduct involving judges.
Shaharudin and his team are representing former EC members Othman Mahmood, Abdul Aziz Khalidin, Md Yusop Mansor, and Sulaiman Narawi.
Other former EC members facing charges at the tribunal are Bala Singam Karupiah and Leo Chong Cheong.
Lawyers K Kumaraendran and A Srimurugan are representing the former, while R Kengadharan is representing the latter.
They are facing 13 charges of misconduct in the year leading to the 14th general election.
The tribunal is led by Steve Shim Lip Kiong, and is also presided by Zaleha Zahari, Suriyadi Halim Omar, Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha and Prasad Sandosham Abraham. All five are former Federal Court judges.
Previously, lawyer M Puravalen, who was appointed by the attorney-general to assist the tribunal, told the tribunal that the case has been rendered academicbecause the six have resigned.
However, Thomas said Puravalen had acted contrary to his instructions and his appointment was terminated.
This prompted Kumaraendran to object, saying that it was unfair to accuse Puravalen of acting against the attorney-general's instructions in his absence.
‘Shortened tenure’
Meanwhile, lawyer Srimurugan rebutted the attorney-general's accusation that the six former EC members resigned to escape scrutiny by the tribunal.
He said on Oct 18 last year, the former EC members (except Bala Singam) wrote to the Agong to have their tenures shortened to Jan 1 and their request was granted through a reply on Oct 26.
The tribunal, however, was only constituted on Jan 24 this year, which is well after the EC members had asked for their tenures to be shortened.

Srimurugan also contended that the former EC members did not resign but merely asked for their term in office to be shortened and then left once the shortened tenure lapsed.
This prompted a tribunal member to ask what the difference was between a resignation and shortened tenure.
For the record, Malaysiakini quoted sources on Oct 17 last year as saying that the government was working to set up a tribunal to remove EC members from office, just a day before the then EC members started resigning.
However, EC chairperson Azhar Azizan Harun had said that the decision to form a tribunal was reached during a meeting on Oct 15, prior to Malaysiakini's report being published.
The tribunal has adjourned and will resume proceedings at a later date. - Mkini

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