Constitutional Council Faces Internal Criticism

A member of the Constitutional Council questioned the legality of Council rulings on election complaints in a recent report to King Norodom Sihanouk.

Say Bory, appointed in late June as a royal representative on the nation’s top legal appeals body, told the King complaints of poll violations had been dismissed by the six CPP-affiliated members of the nine-person council, without consulting the King’s three appointees.

He noted the law requires seven members to be present for the Council to conduct an official meeting and make decisions.

“August: the hour of truth is here,” Say Bory wrote in the memo dated Aug 22 and published in the latest edition of the Bulletin Mensuel de Documen­tation, the King’s bulletin.

“July was too good to be true…more and more violations of laws and administrative procedures are coming to light.”

The Council announced Mon­day it had rejected all 17 of the complaints it had accepted, effectively ending the elections’ ap­peals process. The CPP was officially named the poll’s winner Tuesday. The Council re­fused to accept hundreds of opposition complaints, claiming filing procedures weren’t followed and deadlines were missed in mid-August.

Say Bory wrote to the monarch that Council President Chan Sok, along with the five other “members close to the CPP,” had allowed administrative staff to make decisions on opposition claims of election irregularities. Royal appointees had not been consulted.

Consequently, there are now two councils, Say Bory said: the “Council of Six” and the Con­stitutional Council proper.

“The ‘Council of Six’ [composed of the six members from the CPP] which is judicially illegal, can now decide important affairs like rejecting complaints without passing via the legal Council,” he told the King.

Though seven members must be present for the Council to have a legal meeting, the body can pass judgments with the support of five members, a majority.

When opposition leader Sam Rainsy tried to file election complaints at the Council in mid-August, desk officers at the reception refused to submit the documents to the council, saying the politician had not submitted a cover letter with the dossier.

Contacted the same day, Presi­dent Chan Sok said the opposition complaints had been rejected because they were filed too late—a sentiment he reiterated Wednesday when reached by telephone.

“[Sam Rainsy] came after the deadline,” he said. But he would not comment further on the matter, and referred inquiries to Council spokesman Bin Chhin.

“We have resolved this problem, it was an administrative problem,” Bin Chhin said by telephone Wednesday. “The general-secretary of the Constitutional Council had said something without the authorization of the council [members]. This [issue] was about administration, not about the resolution of complaints.”

Say Bory threatened in the Aug 22 memo to boycott Council meetings if the law was not respected.

“The two other members nominated by the King will react in the same way,” he wrote. “So it’s possible next week we’ll have a new crisis at the Constitutional Council. ”

But that immediate crisis had been averted, Say Bory said Wednesday. Say Bory, a lawyer and former head of the Cam­bodian Bar Association, said he had spoken with Chan Sok a few days after compiling the memo and as a result the Council had convened three meetings at which they rejected the outstanding election complaints. He said he was now satisfied with the outcome of the Council’s work.

“I can assure you that if there were still a problem I would no longer be at the Council,” he said by telephone. “The Council is now respecting the legal procedures.”

He insisted Wednesday that his concerns had been over procedures within the legal body and not over the resolution of the complaints.

Say Bory added he could not comment on criticisms by the opposition, diplomats and legal experts that the Constitutional Council had failed in its duty to review all election complaints.

“I cannot comment because I am a member of the Constitu­tional Council and I cannot criticize other members in public,” he said. “I send my report to the King and tell him my views.”

The memo is taken from a report submitted by Say Bory to the King on the work of the Council.

Say Bory that it was not written as a public document but that the monarch had seen fit to make it available to the public by publishing it in his bulletin.


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