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This is of course a horrible blunder on the part of EC, as it has no business to butt its nose into the correctness of the speaker’s decision, whatever complaints it may receive from the resigned parties.

Kim Quek

Just as Malaysians were held spellbound by another round of the country’s unique brand of “missing persons” politics, we are hit by another bombshell – the record-smashing  move by the Election Commission (EC) to overrule a decision by the Speaker of a legislature to accept the resignations of members of the legislature.

When newly installed election commission chairman Abdul Aziz Yusof announced on Feb 3 that two assemblymen of the Perak state assembly should continue to hold their positions as assemblymen, despite having received a notification from the speaker that these two have resigned, the EC was in fact telling the speaker: your acceptance of those two resignations is no damn good, we don’t recognize it, so the two will remain assemblymen, and there wouldn’t be any by-election.

Sure, the EC did not use these exact words to reject the speaker’s decision, in fact, it said “EC decided that it cannot establish that vacancies have occurred”, and went on to say “we have decided that both the seats will remain with the incumbents” and that there would be no necessity to call for by elections.  But doesn’t this amount to a flat rejection of the speaker’s acceptance of those resignations, as without repudiating the speaker’s decision, EC had no reason to declare that there was no vacancy?

But since when have we amended the law to allow the EC to take over the function of the speaker to accept or not to accept the resignation of members of the legislature?  What legal standing does EC have to claim a say over the membership of a legislature?   What legal power does EC have to interfere in the exercise of the speaker’s authority to run the affairs of the legislature?  And isn’t the decision over the suspension or resignation of a legislator the exclusive domain of the speaker?


When speaker V. Sivakumar received the letters of resignation from PKR assemblymen Jamaluddin Radzi and Osman Jailu, he had every right to accept these resignations and thereafter to inform EC of these two vacancies.  The act of resignation was considered complete when Sivakumar announced on Feb 1 that following his acceptance of those two letters, “they have stepped down as state assemblypersons with immediate effect”.  Next day Feb 2 at 8:00 am, Sivakumar personally handed his letter of notification of such vacancies to the Perak state election director Adli Abdullah.

So on what ground EC rejected Sivakumar’s decision over the resignation of Jamaluddin and Osman?  EC chairman Abdul Aziz said in a press conference on Feb 3 that soon after EC received Sivakumar’s notification on Feb 2 at 8:00 am, it also received one letter each from Jamaluddin and Osman claiming that their letters of resignation were invalid.  EC claimed that these two letters had given rise to doubts over the validity of the resignation,  hence its decision to maintain the status quo, meaning no vacancies and no by-elections.

Asked whether the two denied in their latest letters that they had signed on the resignation letters, Abdul Aziz said: “they do not deny, but they do not agree as to the date of enforcement of the letter”.  When a reporter asked: “so they claim the letters were invalid?”  Abdul Aziz answered: “not valid, they deny the date of the letter as Feb 2, 2009”. (Malaysiakini, Feb 3).


So, the crux of the issue is now boiled down to the date of the letter.  Jamaluddin and Osman had said earlier that they had signed undated letters of resignation soon after the Mar 8, 2008 elections, presumably as a pledge of loyalty to their party PKR, in default of which their resignations would be tendered. 

And since both had disappeared for almost a week and steadfastly failed to respond to frantic calls by PKR leaders amid swirling talks of their defections to UMNO, it should come as no surprise that the two resignation letters were delivered to the speaker for these to take effect as agreed solution for such eventuality as pledged earlier by the PKR legislators. 

The point to note is that these two did not challenge the legality of such an arrangement of resignation that apparently serve to seal the relationship between the party and its elected representatives, they only dispute the timing of using such resignation letters, possibly on the premise that they had not yet declared their defection from PKR.  In fact, through separate press conferences on Feb 2 when both again failed to appear themselves as promised, their supposed representatives read out press statements that claimed that they remained PKR members and denied they had resigned.  They justified their continued non-appearance by claiming they were sick.

Now that Jamaluddin and Osman have objected to the timing of these resignation letters, what should EC do – to act upon the speaker’s notification and call for by-elections or accept the two letters as valid complaints and brush the speaker’s notification aside?  The EC has obviously chosen the latter.

This is of course a horrible blunder on the part of EC, as it has no business to butt its nose into the correctness of the speaker’s decision, whatever complaints it may receive from the resigned parties.  The correct procedure in case of a dispute of such nature is for the assemblymen concerned to complain to the speaker, failing which they should seek redress through the courts, and EC should be the last body considered for settling such dispute.  It is therefore unthinkable that EC should have taken upon itself in this case the role of a judge and ruled in favour of the complainants, virtually passing a verdict  against the action of the speaker.


The big puzzle is: how could an election body that has functioned for half a century have committed such fundamental error?  What conclusion can we draw other than that the EC under the new leadership of Abdul Aziz, instead breathing a new life to the much discredited body with a higher level of independence and integrity, has in fact fallen into greater depth of subservience to the ruling power, taking into consideration that even the much criticized former EC chairman Rashid Rahman had the decency to publicly declare that the EC had only one option – to act on the speaker’s notification to call for by-elections?

Facing such unprecedented and unruly challenges engineered by the incumbent federal power, it gives comfort to note that the Pakatan Rakyat government of Perak is riding over these storms with a steady hand.  It has wisely resorted to two trump cards of incumbency – barring the two assemblymen from the assembly to maintain the present workable majority and contemplating a snap election for the state to seek a renewed mandate from the people.

Kim Quek