KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 ― The Kuala Lumpur High Court today dismissed Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's suit against the Election Commission (EC) for allegedly denying him his right to vote in last year's Permatang Pauh by-election.
The EC’s lead counsel Datuk Amarjeet Singh explained that in her verdict, High Court judge Datuk Nor Bee Ariffin acknowledged that while Anwar still has the right to vote despite serving a jail sentence, his attendance at the polling station was up to the Prisons Department and not the EC.
“The learned judge held that he was not denied the right of an elector because SPR has not denied that he is a registered voter for the Permatang Pauh constituency.
“So the declaration that he has been denied his right as an elector under article 119 of the Federal Constitution is not granted,” Amarjeet told reporters after the decision was read in chambers.
He added that the judge said that instead of suing the EC, the PKR defacto leader should have directed his complaints to the Prisons Department director-general.
“The learned judge then held that the real issue in this case is that he has been denied his right to vote and the judge held that since he is a prisoner then SPR has no jurisdiction over prisoners.
“The jurisdiction lies with the director-general of prisons and the application should have been made to the director-general of prisons to allow him to go to his polling station and exercise his right to vote,” Amarjeet said.
Last May 6, Anwar filed a civil suit against the Election Commission (EC), then EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof and the government of Malaysia for the denial of his rights to vote in the Permatang Pauh by-election on May 7 last year.
Last February 10, the Federal Court maintained Anwar’s five-year jail term after upholding his second sodomy conviction, resulting in a by-election for his Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat that was subsequently won by his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
Amarjeet further explained that Anwar was never denied his right to vote under Article 119 of the Federal Constitution as that right is infringed only when an eligible voter is denied a ballot paper when he is at his respective polling station.
“Because, according to the judge, the laws in this country are that to exercise your right is voluntarily, the person who wants to exercise their right must go to the polling station itself and ask for a ballot paper.
“Only if he has been denied a ballot paper does he have a right to complain that he has been denied the right to vote,” he said.
Article 119 states that anyone above the age of 21 and was a registered resident of a constituency is eligible to vote.
The judge also did not give Anwar a declaration stating that he was eligible to vote.
Anwar’s counsel said, however, that they would be appealing the decision to get the declaration, as it was necessary moving forward to ensure he is allowed to cast his vote at the next election.
“But the judge said that it’s not necessary to issue a declaration because the right is beyond dispute.
“We have to admit that we don’t really understand the reasoning because if it is acknowledged that he has the right to vote then the declaration should be Issued,” Anwar’s lawyer N. Surendran said.
He also urged the government to implement a method by which eligible prisoners will be allowed to vote in the next election.
“I also want to add that this decision also shows that up to now, that right has been denied because there has been no attempt by the EC to ensure that those prisoners who are qualified are taken out and arrangements made to ensure they can cast their vote,” he said.