There appears to be a closure to the cleaner woman case against the PM on the requirements to call for an election when an MP vacated his seat during his term of his office. After a long wait and full of anxiety, the case ended like being doused with a pail of cold water. The Judge Pillai ruled that there was no need for the PM to call for a by election to fill an empty MP seat. It is the PM’s absolute discretion when to hold it and can actually delay and not holding it at all. And it seems that this is final and, other than getting the law amended, that’s it.
From a layman’s point of view, there appears to be many loopholes in the judge’s interpretation of the law. But layman’s opinion does not mean anything to the court. The thing is whether the legal profession see anything wrong with the judge’s interpretation of the law or fully agree that the brilliant judge’s ruling is clinically perfect, flawless? If this is the reason, then no one can find fault with the law and the legal fraternity. But if it is a case of apathy, disinterest, not my business, or full of empty heads, then it is a sad ending.
Nothing of this case was heard till this morning when Elgin Toh wrote his commentary in the ST. He dealt with the legal and political implications and consequences of the ruling. The ruling that the PM has absolute discretionary power when to hold a by election is as good as saying no by election, and no MP for the constituents if he so decided. Definitely this must not be the intention and spirit of the law. And political expediency would mean that the constituents may have to go about their affairs without an MP which is unsatisfactory and undemocratic.
The basis of a democratic system is to have an elected representative of the people to be in parliament to be their spokesperson, to speak on their behalf and to cast votes on their behalf. In reality the last bit is of course a myth as MPs normaly do not ask their constituents on how to vote. They vote according to the dictates of their parties. But this must not rob the people of their right to have a MP of their choice in parliament. The ruling implies that a PM can deny the people this right, albeit indirectly and irresponsibly.
Then again, if the view of a lawyer MP is right, the election is to elect a govt, and when a govt is in place, having or not having an MP is superfluous, secondary, not necessary. Is this really the spirit and intention of the constitution on election laws?
Would there be further discussions from the elite and the brilliant and learned counsels trained in law, and politicians who believe in democracy and democratic processes on this matter? Getting the constitution amended to patch up this hole or anomaly is as good as fat hope under the current political climate.
The silence, the fait accompli, seems to suggest that this matter is closed, or not important or relevant to worth further discourse from our thinkers and elite. Hopefully Elgin Toh’s probing article would stimulate some interest and a new enlightenment in this election law, in the constitution and in practice.