PUTRAJAYA (Nov 15): PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang remains as the Marang Member of Parliament, as a three-member Federal Court bench led by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim on Wednesday ruled that Barisan Nasional election candidate Jasmira Othman had failed to prove his petition beyond reasonable doubt.
“This follows the principle established in election law — that [the Terengganu executive councillors] were agents of the respondent (Abdul Hadi) had not been established," Abang Iskandar said. “The bench is also not with the appellant on the other issues raised (alleged graft during the general election). Hence, we rule that the appellant had failed to prove the petition beyond reasonable doubt, and hence we unanimously dismiss the appeal.”
The other Federal Court judges on the bench were Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Datuk Rhodzhariah Bujang.
The Marang petition is the last petition of appeal that relates to the 15th general election (GE15) held on Nov 19, 2022.
Jasmira's counsel Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun had argued that the giving out of financial aid through the i-Belia and I-Siswa programmes from Nov 14 to 17, 2022 by the Terengganu exco at the time constituted graft to the Marang constituents, and that the exco members, who are also Marang PAS senior members, could be considered as agents of Hadi.
Hafarizam cited the Kemaman and Kuala Terengganu election court decisions, which nullified both PAS parliamentary seats won, due to the i-Siswa and i-Belia aid given, plus the fact that the Islamist party did not appeal against the decisions to the Federal Court, as grounds that the alleged graft during the campaign period did take place.
As a result, he said, the Kuala Terengganu by-election was held in August, while the Kemaman by-election nomination day is scheduled for this Saturday.
Hafarizam said the i-Belia and i-Siswa aid, which was given to more than 6,000 people in the Marang parliamentary constituency, could have been given at some other time outside of the campaign period, and hence Hadi’s win should be nullified.
He pointed out that financial contributions were also given at one surau in the constituency, which were further evidence of monetary contributions used in the campaign.
However, in all those occasions cited, Hadi was not around at those functions, but pictures of him on the backdrop or PAS flags were present. In the other two election petitions, the candidates for both seats were present when the i-Belia and i-Siswa aid was given out.
Abdul Hadi’s counsel Yusfarizal Yussoff, who appeared with PAS secretary general Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, in reply said that the aid was planned well before the GE15, as it was formulated on Nov 15, 2021, and passed by the legislative assembly in June 2022.
Yusfarizal reminded the bench that the GE15 did not cause the state to have its own election, and hence the Terengganu government at that time remained intact.
“This was the first time that state elections were held separately from the Parliament elections,” he said, adding that the decisions in the Kuala Terengganu and Kemaman election courts do not bind the apex court.
He said that the Terengganu exco had decided, back in September 2022, that the i-Belia and i-Siswa aid were to be disbursed between Oct 30 and Nov 30 last year, and this was decided way before Parliament was dissolved on Oct 10.
“Furthermore, there is no issue of the aid given to be considered as a bribe, as applicants were told to apply for the funds before the national election campaign period. i-Belia and i-Siswa were an extension of assistance and policy by the Terengganu government to be disbursed during that period,” he added.
Yusfarizal asserted that the Terengganu exco who had given the aid in Marang should not be considered as Abdul Hadi’s agents, as the Federal Court defines agents in elections as those who are officially appointed.
Hence, he said, there was no element of appointment of the exco being Abdul Hadi’s agents, and there was no proof they were agents, as they were fulfilling their task or wearing their hats as state exco members.
“Furthermore, Abdul Hadi was not present when the aid was given, and there was no coercion done, as the recipients had been decided beforehand,” Yusfarizal said. “As the Terengganu exco members are not deemed as agents, and that the aid was decided way before the campaign period, this should not be construed as election offences. Hence, the appeal by Jasmira should be dismissed."
Besides Takiyuddin, Wan Rohimi Wan Daud, who is the Melor assemblyman in Kelantan, and Mohd Faizi Che Abu appeared for Abdul Hadi.