(Teluk Intan, Saturday): On Thursday, Gerakan Member of Parliament for Teluk Intan Mah Siew Keong was found guilty by the Ipoh High Court of contempt of court and was fined RM10,000 or in default three months jail.
Under Article 48 of the Federal Constitution, a member of Parliament is disqualified from being a member of the House if he is convicted of an offence by a court of law in the Federation and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than a year or to a fine of not less than RM2,000.
However, Mah is still entitled to exhaust the legal process and appeal to the Court of Appeal and then the Federal Court.
The legal maxim "Justice delayed is justice denied" is most applicable here and it is in the interests of justice both to Mah and to the 52,000 voters of Teluk Intan that his status as Member of Parliament is decided speedily.
Article 54(1) of the Federal Constitution provides that no by-election need be held if a vacancy in the Dewan Rakyat falls "within two years of the date Parliament shall…stand dissolved".
As the last general election was held on November 29, 1999, this would mean that even if Mah loses his final appeal to the Federal Court and is disqualified as MP, no by-election in Teluk Intan need be held if this takes place after November 28, 2002.
This would be most unfair to the voters of Teluk Intan as it would mean depriving them of the right to be represented in Parliament by an MP for two years.
It is for this reason that justice for Mah must be matched by justice for the 52,000 voters of Teluk Intan so that the issue of Mah’s status as MP could be decided with finality speedily so as not to deprive the voters of Teluk Intan their right to parliamentary representation.
Teluk Intan had made history with two previous by-elections, the first time in 1962 when former deputy education minister, Too Joon Hing won on an independent ticket and in May 1997 when DAP’s M. Kula Segaran won against impossible odds, creating a Richter-6 "political earthquake".
The first two by-elections are separated by a span of 35 years, covering two generations. If a by-election is held in the current Parliamentary session, it would mean that the same generation of voters of Teluk Intan would have the opportunity to vote in two by-elections and there is no doubt that the third Teluk Intan by-election would be as historic as the first two by-elections.