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Parliament cannot abolish local government elections, Federal Court hears


PUTRAJAYA: Abolishing local government elections is beyond Parliament’s power as it contradicts the Federal Constitution, the Federal Court heard Tuesday.

Lawyer Tommy Thomas, representing the Penang government, said in amending prior laws, Parliament cannot change the basic structure of the Constitution.

The state government and former Aliran president P. Ramakrishnan have petitioned to challenge the validity of Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976, which prevented state legislatures from providing for local government elections within their states.

“Section 15 of the Act is an attempt to destroy democracy and local government,” said Thomas.

He also asked the court to take note that in 1965, then-prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had told the Dewan Rakyat that the suspension of local government elections during the Indonesian Confrontation was only a temporary measure.

Thomas submitted that by revising the Local Government Elections Act 1960 in 1991, Parliament had itself revived local elections.

Senior federal counsel Alice Loke Yee Ching, representing the Federal Government and Election Commission, argued that under Article 76(4) of the Federal Constitution, Parliament can validly make laws on matters within the legislative power of the State, if it is to ensure the uniformity of law and policy.

Loke said the Act’s purpose was evident even from its title, which states that it is “an Act to revise and consolidate the laws relating to local government”.

The panel lead by Court of Appeal president Justice Raus Sharif, which included Justices Suriyadi Halim Omar, Ahmad Maarop, Ramly Ali and Apandi Ali, reserved judgement to a date to be fixed.

In the petition, the Penang state government and Ramakrishnan said local government elections were held in George Town in 1951 and conducted by the local authority.

They said the Penang State Legislative Assembly had passed the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012 on May 9 2012 and gazetted it on July 5 2012.

The Pakatan Rakyat-led Penang government has been attempting to restore local government elections which were abolished 48 years ago, on March 1, 1965.
   

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