PUTRAJAYA: Election Commission (EC) chairman Azhar Azizan Harun - popularly known as Art Harun - has defended himself and one of the new appointees to the Commission, denying they are “Pakatan Harapan supporters”.
He said this was a misperception because he and Zoe Randhawa, of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0), fought as activists for something that was right according to the tenets of the law.
“If we think it’s right, we fought for it … . There were some things that we fought for that were agreed to by the then opposition.
“It’s not that we agreed with them; they agreed with us,” he said during a press conference to welcome the latest appointments to the EC on Friday (Feb 15).
Azhar, who had been vocal against the previous Barisan Nasional government, said some of the things they had fought for had also been agreed to by the Barisan administration.
“We do what we believe to be right. We don’t look at which party – never!” he said, adding that he had in the past argued election petitions in court for both Barisan and Pakatan when it was the opposition.
“So what is right is right. What is wrong is wrong. Perception will always be perception. But I hope our record will prove otherwise,” said Azhar, chiming in to a question directed at Randhawa.
The 30-year-old had been asked about perceptions that Bersih might have been anti-Barisan and partisan towards Pakatan.
However, she said that democracy and upholding the trust of the people would always come first.
“I think it’s important to listen to all sides in the process of reform,” said Randhawa, the youngest ever commissioner appointed to the EC.
“It is surreal,” she said when asked about that distinction.
Besides Randhawa, former Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Seri Ramlan Ibrahim and former Labour Department director-general Datuk Chin Phaik Yoong also reported for duty on Friday.
Universiti Malaya Law lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom, who will take up the position of EC deputy chairman, and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Associate Prof Dr Faisal S. Hazis, still had duties to attend to.
Meanwhile, Azhar also denied suggestions that the new appointments were to pre-empt a court case against the EC, saying that the process to appoint the commissioners had been ongoing since last November.
“As an ex-legal practitioner, I will not pre-empt legal action with these sort of moves. There has been an injunction filed. I don't want to be accused of contempt of court,” he said.
Azhar also said that he was confident that one more commissioner would be appointed soon.
In a statement Thursday (Feb 14), Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ismail Bakar said the new 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.
On Feb 8, a registered voter filed for an injunction to halt the Semenyih by-election, challenging the validity of the EC as it was run by only the chairman.
Aside from the chairman, the remaining six posts in the Commission were still vacant, rendering the EC non-existent in accordance with the Federal Constitution, the voter's lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz said.
Six EC members resigned effective Jan 1, 2019, and the posts had remained vacant until Thursday’s appointments.