'No' to Penang local govt elections

'No' to Penang local govt elections

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - The Federal Court has declared that the Penang state government has no jurisdiction to hold local government elections.

Court of Appeal president Justice Raus Sharif said the state government had exceeded its jurisdiction by unilaterally exempting the application of Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976 to the whole of Penang.

Section 15 prohibits state legislatures from holding local government elections within their states.

Justice Raus said since the abolishment of local government elections was a policy decision by the National Council for Local Governments, the state government should have consulted the council in seeking to make the exemption.

The court also ruled that the state government had acted ultra vires (beyond its powers) in passing a 2012 enactment to hold local elections, as the enactment ran contrary to Sections 10 and 15 of the Local Government Act, which are federal laws.

"Parliament enacted Sections 10 and 15 under powers vested upon it by the Federal Constitution for the purpose of ensuring uniformity of law and policy in relation to local governments, which include local government elections," said Justice Raus, ruling that Sections 10 and 15 were constitutional.

The panel, which also included Federal Court Justices Suriyadi Halim Omar, Ahmad Maarop, Mohamed Apandi Ali and Ramly Ali, unanimously dismissed the petition with no order as to costs.

On March 11 last year, the state government and former Aliran president P. Ramakrishnan filed a petition that the state legislature had the right to allow voters in Penang to elect their local councillors in accordance with the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012.

The petitioners also sought to declare Section 15 of the Local Government Act invalid, claiming that Parliament acted beyond its powers under the Federal Constitution in enacting the provision.

The Penang assembly had in May 2012 passed the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) 2012 Enactment, which provides for the EC to conduct local government elections in the state.

The state government informed the EC that the enactment would have come into force in Penang by Jan 31 last year.

However, the state did not obtain any commitment from the EC to conduct the elections over the Penang Municipal Council and Seberang Perai Municipal Council.

The Pakatan Rakyat-led Penang government has been attempting to restore local government elections, which were abolished on March 1, 1965.

Currently, councillors and local government heads are appointed by the state governments.

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