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Friday, April 30, 2010

Legal panel on ways to hold local government elections

By Opalyn Mok
GEORGE TOWN (April 30, 2010): The legal advisory panel appointed by the Penang government to study the laws covering local government elections (LGE) has recommended that the state seek a declaration from the Federal Court in its bid to hold local government elections (LGE).

Panel head and former Bar Council chairman Yeo Yang Poh said the Elections Commission (EC) was wrong in saying current laws do not permit the holding of LGE.
He told a press conference at Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's office here in Komtar today that the only avenue for the state government now is to go to the Federal Court.
This is his argument:
> Article 113 (4) of the Constitution states that LGE is constitutionally permissible and while it is not mandatory, it cannot be prohibited by any law.
> When Section 15 (1) of the Local Government Act (LGA) prohibits LGE, it is then inconsistent with the constitution.
Yeo said the panel recommends the state government seeks a declaration directly from the Federal Court to declare Section 15 (1) of the LGA void and to declare the Local Government Elections Act the sole and proper law on LGE.
"If this fails, the state government can opt out of Section 15 (1) by virtue of Section 1(4) which states that the state authority may by notification in the Gazette exempt any area within any local authority area from all or any of the provisions of the Act," he said.
After the state government 'opts out', it can then invoke the Local Government Elections Act to carry out LGE, he said.
Yeo submitted the full report of the panel's legal opinions officially to Lim on Friday.
Lim said the state executive council will meet to discuss the reports and decide on the next course of action.
Last month, the Election Commission had said that it could not hold LGEs as the provision allowing it to do so was repealed when the Local Government Act 1976 came into effect.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusoff had said Part V of the Local Government Elections Act 1960 allowed it to supervise elections of local councillors, but all provisions related to local government elections were repealed when the the 1976 Act was enforced.
He said the 1976 Act gave states "full authority" to appoint local councillors.
"I would like to stress that we are not rejecting the requests by the Penang and Selangor governments to hold elections for local government. However, we are not able to hold the elections as there is no enabling law or legal provision for us to do so," he was quoted as saying.
He had said the two states could take up the matter with the National Council for Local Governments. -theSun


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