Former Bar Council chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan has questioned the need for the executive to comment on the legal challenges against the Election Commission's redelineation exercise.
“It does not bode well for the EC that the executive feels the need to defend them when the EC's independence requires them to be free of the executive and to perform its duties so as to inspire public confidence in their actions,” she said in a statement this evening.
Ambiga, who is representing the Selangor government in its legal tussle with the EC, was responding to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's press aide Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad's comments on the matter.
The former Bersih chairperson also criticised Tengku Sariffuddin for accusing the opposition of exploiting the legal system.
“There appears to be a lack of appreciation for a cardinal principle of the rule of law that everyone is entitled to access to justice and equal access to the courts.
“To thus describe the redelineation cases as an 'exploitation of the legal system' denigrates this cardinal principle and is a slur on the judiciary who are the ultimate guardians of the law, the legal process and its governing rules,” she said.
Ambiga also pointed out that with two appeals in the Selangor case still pending, Tengku Sariffuddin's remarks could be viewed as direct interference by the executive in these cases.
“All parties must ensure that the integrity of these appeals is not in any way compromised,” she added.
Apart from this, Ambiga also said the judiciary does not require vindication by the executive with regard to Tengku Sariffuddin stressing on its independence.
“The test for an independent judiciary is not whether the government and the opposition win or lose cases before them.
“The test is that every case must be decided by judges, not on the basis of who appears before them, but solely on the facts and the law, uninfluenced by fear or favour.
“No one is above the law including the EC,” she added.
Earlier today, Tengku Sariffuddin accused the opposition of attempting to distract attention from its fading popularity by politicising the redelineation process and dragging the matter to court.
“It is a shame that they choose to run down their own country internationally just for their own political gain,” he said.
Yesterday, the Court of Appeal, in a majority decision, allowed the EC's bid to remove a stay order imposed by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, which prevented the commission from holding a local inquiry into the objections toward the redelineation exercise in Selangor.
Earlier this month, the High Court dismissed the Selangor government's judicial review application to challenge the EC's redelineation notice.
Justice Azizul Azmi Adnan, however, had granted a stay on his decision, which prevented the EC from conducting an inquiry on the grouses of voters in the state.