GEORGE TOWN, Feb 25 ― Penang can call for local government elections instead of waiting for the Election Commission (EC) to conduct it for the state, said Gerakan Legal and Human Rights Bureau chairman Baljit Singh.
“There is no provision in the law that is stopping the state government from conducting its own local government elections,” he said.
He said the Pakatan Rakyat state government need not wait for the EC as it can obtain the latest gazetted electoral roll to conduct local elections to pick councillors for the Penang Island and Seberang Perai Municipal Councils.
Yesterday, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng announced that the state government must sue the federal government and the EC to compel the commission to conduct the local government elections here.
Lim said that the state legislature has jurisdiction to call for local elections under the Ninth Schedule and Article 113 (4) of the Federal Constitution.
“There is nothing in the Federal Constitution that says the state government can compel the EC to conduct local government elections,” Baljit said.
He told The Malaysian Insider that the state government also has the manpower and funds to hold the local government elections without the EC.
“PR has always accused the EC of being biased so why are they relying on the EC to conduct the local government elections for them now? If the EC could not be trusted as they claimed, then they should conduct the local government elections themselves,” he said.
He said if the state government was really sincere in restoring the “third vote” to the Penang, then they should just do it instead of passing the buck.
“When they file this court action, it does not mean that the action will be successful so it actually means nothing,” he said.
He said the court action, especially when the general election is expected to be called within March or April, was clearly a political gambit.
“It is obviously a gimmick to justify why they could not fulfil their manifesto from 2008 to return the ‘third vote’ to Penang,” he said.
The state government had passed the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012 in May last year, which provides for the EC to conduct local government elections here.
Since then, the state government had informed the EC that the enactment would come into force in Penang by January 31 this year, but the EC has failed to give any commitment to conduct elections to elect councillors for both local councils.
Lim said the former Aliran president P. Ramakrishnan will join the state government in its application to the Federal Court, which will be filed within the next two weeks.
Since 2009, the state government has taken steps to restore the local government elections such as by writing to the federal government to put the third vote on the agenda of the National Council of Local Government, passing a resolution to call on the federal authorities to reinstate the local elections, and asking the EC to conduct the local government elections as per the Local Government Elections Act 1960 but all these initiatives were rejected.
Early last year, the state government exempted both local councils from Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976 that had rendered all legal provisions for local government elections inoperative before the state legislative assembly passed the enactment to allow local government elections in May.
The enactment came into force on January 31 this year.