Malaysia

Court dismisses appeal for review of constituency funds payout

By Zurairi AR
January 16, 2013

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 16 ― The Federal Court today dismissed an appeal by Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj for a judicial review on the distribution of public funds to individual constituencies.

The court decided that it will not interfere with the management prerogative of the country’s executive branch, and agreed with the Court of Appeal’s decision on October 10, 2011.

“It is our view that this is a policy matter not under the purview of the court,” Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Shari told the floor. “We’ll dissuade ourselves from interfering with the domain of executive.

“We’re inclined to agree with the Court of Appeal.”

Justice Md Raus presided over a five-man panel that included Chief Judge of Malaya Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin, and Federal Court judges Hashim Yusof, Suriyadi Halim Omar and Ahmad Maarop.

Around twenty Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) members gathered in the court to support Dr Jeyakumar (picture), holding a banner saying “Mana perginya peruntukan rakyat Sg Siput? Siapa rampas?” (Where have the allocations for Sungai Siput citizens gone? Who took them?)

Dr Jeyakumar had appealed against the October 10, 2011 decision, which allowed the Attorney-General’s petition against the decision of the High Court.

On February 28, 2011, the High Court had dismissed the A-G’s objection to an application for leave to file a judicial review on the matter.

“In a judicial review there are two stages. You have to get leave first ... We can’t even get leave to have this issue determined,” said lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, who represented the MP.

“We’re very disappointed with the Federal Court. We expect the court to uphold fair play and proper performance of the government,” said Dr Jeyakumar outside the court.

On February 25, 2011, Dr Jeyakumar succeeded securing approval from the High Court for a judicial review that the special constituency funds should be made available to all MPs equally.

Among others, he was seeking an order to compel the Implementation Co-ordination Unit director-general, Perak State Development office director and the federal government to specify who can apply for funds from the allocation.

In his application, Dr Jeyakumar said he had been applying for the allocation since 2008 but had not received a satisfactory response.

The Federal Counsel had then filed an application in the Court of Appeal, Putrajaya to set aside the leave granted, and filed an application for a stay asking that the hearing for the judicial review at High Court be stopped until the appeal at Putrajaya was granted.

Dr Jeyakumar then filed the case in Federal Court after the Court of Appeal denied the leave for the judicial review in October 2011.

The MP insisted that changing the government is now the only way to make sure that public funds will reach their intended recipients, now that they have exhausted their legal options.

“If Pakatan Rakyat takes over, we will make sure this money will go to everyone,” Dr Jeyakumar told reporters, a view echoed by his colleague, PAS’s Kuala Krai MP Dr Hatta Ramli.

He clarified that his promise is still not officially under the manifesto of Pakatan Rakyat (PR), but noted that many other PR MPs shared his opinions.

Other lawmakers involved with the judicial review application besides Dr Jeyakumar and Dr Hatta are M. Manogaran (Teluk Intan), Siti Mariah Mahmud (Kota Raja), Liew Chin Tong (Bukit Bendera), Khalid Samad (Shah Alam), Nurul Izzah Anwar (Lembah Pantai), Chua Tian Chang (Batu), and Yusmadi Md Yusof (Balik Pulau).

“Regardless of the decision, it doesn’t stop the government from doing the right thing ... The ball is now in their court,” Ambiga said.

Around RM220 million in public funds are distributed annually among political constituencies, with each receiving RM1 million.

However, this is managed by the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional’s (BN) representatives, and opposition MPs do not have the knowledge of how the allocations are disbursed.

The same procedure is practised by the Pakatan Rakyat Selangor administration, where opposition BN MPs do not receive the same allocations as their PR counterparts.