KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 – The recent lawsuit by a Semenyih voter to stop the upcoming by-election due to the Election Commission (EC) being a “one-man show” seems to have expedited the naming of new EC commissioners by the government.
The suit by the voter sought to challenge the validity of the EC as it only had one commissioner, namely EC Chairman Azhar Azizan Harun, “thus rendering the EC non-existent in accordance with the Federal Constitution” according to the voter’s lawyer.
Today, however, the government announced the appointment of a deputy chairman and four new commissioners to work under Azhar, a prominent lawyer who is popularly known as Art Harun.
Universiti Malaya Law professor Azmi Sharom takes on the post of deputy chairman while the naming of Zoe Randhawa, who until recently was the Bersih 2.0 advocacy and education officer, as a commissioner will see the electoral watchdog finally having some impact from within the EC itself. Randhawa is currently the Bersih 2.0 resource officer.
The other three commissioners are former Foreign Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Ramlan Ibrahim, former Labour Department director-general Datuk Chin Phaik Yoong and senior fellow at the Institute of International and Malaysia studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Faisal S. Hazis.
According to Bernama, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah consented to their appointment under Article 114 (1) of the Federal Constitution.
EC commissioners until age 66
Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Ismail Bakar said their appointments will come into effect from the day they report as a Commission member until they reach the age of 66, in accordance with Article 114 (3) of the Federal Constitution.
Art Harun was named the EC chairman last July by the new Pakatan Harapan government after the previous chairman, Tan Sri Hashim Abdullah had his tenure cut short, with him leaving his post on July 1, 2018, instead of 2020 as scheduled.
The other six commissioners who had served with Hashim all tendered their resignations last October and November after the government announced its intention to set up a tribunal to review the allegations of misconduct and other wrongdoings by the commissioners in the run up to the 14th general election (GE14) last May.
It was reported that all the commissioners chose to resign effective January 1, 2019. However, at the Tribunal hearing last month, it was revealed that they ceased exercising their offices from the date they submitted their resignation letters.
Challenging Sedition Act
Azmi Sharom is no stranger to Malaysians having been a strong voice for human rights and on issues of constitutional law, through his articles in newspapers and news portals over the past 10 years.
In 2015, he challenged the Sedition Act, saying it was unconstitutional. He decided to do so after he was charged the year before with committing sedition.
The alleged seditious statement by Azmi was published in an online article titled “Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told” in August 2014.
However, on October 6, 2015, the Federal Court dismissed his challenge and he was subsequently acquitted and discharged of the sedition charge by the Sessions Court on February 19, 2016.
Another prominent human rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan, who is now the political secretary to DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, welcomed the new appointments, especially that of Azmi.
Taking to Facebook, Syahredzan said he hopes now there is true electoral reformation.