Outlawing party hopping for good

The time has truly come for such a legislation to be put in place.

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Published by Malay Mail, image from Malay Mail.

The political manoeuvrings of recent days that saw the downfall of the Pakatan Harapan government reinforces the need to enact anti-party hopping laws — federal and state.

Back in 1976, the now MP for Iskandar Puteri, Lim Kit Siang, had actually proposed an anti-hoping law that will see MPs vacating their seat within 30 days if they resign or were expelled from their parties.

It is noteworthy, however, that probably the most well-known call for an anti-hopping law was made in the wake of the failure of the then Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to capture federal power in 2008.

And perhaps not ironically, that call came from the late Karpal Singh (Tiger of Jelutong) — the long-time DAP MP known for his unstinting principled stand.

This was to pre-empt the much-anticipated crossovers by BN MPs to PR, especially in view of the political intrigue and suspense surrounding the purported vote of no confidence in Tun Abdullah Badawi on 16 September 2008.

The call for an anti-hopping law was renewed by the youth wing of DAP (Dapsy)after PH took over as the federal government.

On the other hand, opponents would argue that anti-hopping laws are unconstitutional and just as undemocratic.

For while the will and verdict of the electorate must be upheld and respected at all times, the freedom of the wakil rakyat to choose and decide his/her party affiliation must also be honoured.

In the absence of anti-hopping provisions, the electorate is always in a position to punish that wakil rakyat should the majority choose to do so even if not “immediately.”

In other words, not making party political hopping or frogging to be unlawful does not in any way invalidate the principles of democracy, transparency and accountability.

That said, to reiterate, the time has truly come for such a legislation to be put in place, nonetheless.

How should it be done?

Proposals have been made before and it behoves this article to re-articulate these with some slight additions along the way.

Firstly, the Federal Constitution might still need to be amended — particularly with regards to Article 10 on the freedom of association.

Specifically, this would mean:

  • adding to Article 10(2)(c) such phrases that make clear party hopping is prejudicial to public interest; or
  • that MPs and State Legislative Assembly Members (SLA-Ms) are prohibited from changing party or political affiliations throughout the whole duration of Parliament and the State Legislative Assembly, respectively.

This is to also take into account the 1992 ruling of the Supreme Court (now Federal Court) that recognises party cross overs as legitimate in the eyes of the law.

The case of Nordin bin Salleh v the Kelantan State Assembly [1992] was in relation to the PAS state government of Kelantan’s enactment of an anti-hopping law in the wake of defections to BN.

Just to make sure, perhaps even the preceding Article 9 on the freedom of movement would have to be looked at.

While at first glance and superficially, this Article seems to bear no resemblance at all to the relevance of the issue, it might well hypothetically impinge on the effective implementation of Article 10(2)(c) as amended.

That is to pre-empt any questioning of or challenge to the capability of a wakil rakyat to simply cross the floor premised on a change of political party membership(!)

Secondly, an Act of Parliament should also be enacted to give further effect and force.

Provisions under this legislation should extend to a recall of the MP or SLA-M if the wakil rakyat concerned refuses to step down for a by-election.

Meaning, if he/she persists in changing party while hanging on to his/her position as wakil rakyat on the basis of conscience and personal conviction, constituents may force a by-election to take place on the basis of the required minimum of signatures.

This mimics the UK’s The Recall of MPs Act (2015).

Additionally, perhaps the Societies Act (1966) should also be amended to include provisions whereby MPs and SLA-Ms who wish to leave their current political party must make a statutory declaration (SD) that he/she was not induced by financial or pecuniary means to do so.

Failure to do so may mean the accepting party could be investigated for the illegal act of inducement.

At the same time, his/her accounts are to be vetted by the MACC and checked against prior asset declaration as per Parliament’s special motion on 1 July 2019.

Violations of such conditions would render the political party accepting the crossover liable to criminal litigation and prosecution.

Now, countries that have anti-hopping laws include India and New Zealand.

In the case of India, the Anti-Defection Act (1985) was enacted to combat the political culture of “Aaya Ram Gaya Ram.” The phrase literally means “Ram has come, Ram has gone” — whereby Ram here refers to those hopping politicians.

And New Zealand’s Electoral Integrity (Amendment) Act 2018 seeks to prevent Kiwi politicians from doing “waka jumping” (literally, “jumping ship”).

Back here in Malaysia, Penang is the only state where such a legislation is still in place or legally unaffected.

It is in the form of Article 14(A)(1) of the Constitution of the State of Penang (Amendment) Enactment 2012.

The provision states that a member of the State Legislative Assembly shall vacate his/ her seat if:

(a) Having been elected as a candidate of a political party, he resigns or is expelled from or ceases for any reasons whatsoever to be a member of that party; or

(b) Having been elected as an independent but later joins a political party.

It has to be said this state enactment or legislation might not be fully enforceable due to current judicial interpretation of pre-existing Constitution provisions — based on precedent as previously highlighted.

So, in conclusion, what is required — indeed the only requirement — is the political will to make the necessary constitutional amendments and legislate for the appropriate Act of Parliament.

Let us, therefore, hope that steadfast and intrepid proponents would renew their call to continue to push through this agenda.

In the process, let us also renew our confidence and faith in our democracy.

May it be a true beacon shining and inspiring hope for generations of Malaysians to come!

Jason Loh Seong Wei is Head of Social, Law and Human Rights at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

Bahasa Melayu

Diterbitkan oleh EMIR Research.

Siasah politik sejak kebelakangan ini yang menyaksikan kejatuhan kerajaan Pakatan Harapan (PH) telah memperkukuhkan keperluan untuk mewartakan satu perundangan mengharamkan kegiatan melompat parti sama ada di peringkat persekutuan mahupun negeri.

Pada 1976 lagi, Ahli Parlimen Iskandar Puteri, Lim Kit Siang, sebenarnya sudah menyarankan satu undang-undang anti-melompat parti di mana Ahli Parlimen dipaksa mengosongkan kerusi dalam 30 hari sekiranya meletak jawatan atau diusir partinya.

Mungkin apa yang perlu diberi perhatian ialah gesaan untuk diperkenalkan undang-undang anti-melompat parti mendapat perhatian utama selepas kegagalan Pakatan Rakyat (PR) ketika itu untuk mengambil alih tampuk kerajaan persekutuan pada 2008.

Gesaan tersebut dibuat oleh mendiang Karpal Singh (Harimau Jelutong), Ahli Parlimen DAP tersohor yang terkenal dengan pendiriannya yang berprinsip.

Ia dibuat untuk mencegahkan perlompatan Ahli Parlimen BN kepada PR dalam suasana muslihat politik dan ketegangan di sebalik desas desus undi tidak percaya terhadap Tun Abdullah Badawi pada 16 September 2008.

Seruan supaya undang-undang anti-melompat parti menjadi realiti diperbaharui oleh sayap pemuda DAP (DAPSY) selepas PH mengambil alih sebagai kerajaan persekutuan.

Akan tetapi pengkritik berpendapat bahawa undang-undang anti-melompat parti adalah tidak berperlembagaan dan anti-demokratik.

Ini kerana walaupun kehendak dan keputusan pengundi mesti ditegakkan dan dihormati pada setiap masa, kebebasan wakil rakyat untuk memilih dan memutuskan keahlian partinya juga harus dihormati.

Dengan tiadanya peruntukan anti-melompat parti, para pengundi masih berupaya menghukum wakil rakyat yang melompat parti sekiranya majoriti mereka memilih berbuat demikian walaupun bukan dengan segera.

Dalam kata lain, tanpa peruntukan undang-undang anti-melompat parti pun tidak semestinya bermaksud lenyapnya sama sekali prinsip demokrasi, ketelusan dan kebertanggungjawaban.

Namun demikian, mengambil kira kekecohan yang berlaku dalam perkembangan politik masa kini, sudah tiba masanya untuk melaksanakan undang-undang sedemikian.

Jadi, bagaimanakah ianya boleh dilaksanakan?

Sebenarnya, cadangan perundangan anti melompat parti sudah lama dibuat oleh mereka yang memperjuangkan isu ini. Artikel ini cuma mengulangi dengan sedikit penambahan.

Yang pertama, Perlembagaan Persekutuan mungkin perlu dipinda – terutamanya berkaitan dengan Artikel 10 mengenai kebebasan untuk berpersatuan atau berpergaulan.

Secara khususnya, ini melibatkan:

  • Penambahan kepada Artikel 10(2)(c) frasa yang memberi penjelasan bahawasanya lompatan parti memudaratkan kepentingan awam; atau
  • Ahli Parlimen dan Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (Adun), masing-masing dilarang menukar parti sepanjang tempoh Parlimen dan Dewan Undangan Negeri.

Pindaan ini juga mengambil kira keputusan Mahkamah Agung (sekarang Mahkamah Persekutuan) yang mengiktiraf lompatan parti sebagai sah di sisi undang-undang.

Kes rujukan ialah Nordin bin Salleh v Dewan Undangan Negeri Kelantan [1992] berhubung dengan isu penggubalan undang-undang anti-melompat parti oleh kerajaan negeri PAS Kelantan berikutan Adunnya berpaling tadah ke BN.

Untuk memastikan pentafsiran Perlembagaan itu mantap, sejajar dan konsisten, Artikel 9 berkaitan kebebasan pergerakan mungkin juga perlu dipertimbangkan semula dan diperkasakan.

Ini adalah untuk mencegah sebarang pertikaian mengenai keupayaan seorang wakil rakyat untuk menyeberang lantai Parlimen atau DUN berdasarkan perubahan keahlian parti politik.

Peruntukan perlu juga menjurus kepada isu pengunduran semula Ahli Parlimen atau Adun jika wakil rakyat berkenaan enggan meletak jawatan untuk membuka laluan bagi pilihan raya kecil (PRK) diadakan.

Sekiranya wakil rakyat tersebut masih mahu menukar parti berlandaskan pendirian peribadi, para pengundi boleh memaksa PRK diadakan dengan tandatangan minimum yang diperlukan.

Selain itu, mungkin Akta Pertubuhan (1966) juga perlu dipinda di mana Ahli Parlimen dan Adun yang ingin meninggalkan parti mesti membuat akuan bersumpah (SD) bahawa tiada dorongan kewangan mereka meninggalkan parti.

Di Malaysia, Pulau Pinang merupakan satu-satunya negeri di mana enakmen anti melompat parti masih belum dipertikaikan di mahkamah dan dari sudut Perlembagaan.

Namun, enakmen negeri ini mungkin tidak berkemampuan dikuatkuasakan sepenuhnya oleh kerana penafsiran kehakiman semasa mengenai peruntukan Perlembagaan yang sedia ada.

Oleh itu, kesimpulannya, apa yang diperlukan adalah tekad atau azam politik untuk membuat pindaan perlembagaan yang diperlukan dan seterusnya meluluskan rang undang-undang.

Jason Loh Seong Wei ialah Ketua Bahagian Sosial, Perundangan dan Hak Asasi di EMIR Research, sebuah badan pemikir bebas yang berfokuskan kepada pencernaan saranan-saranan dasar strategik berteraskan penyelidikan yang terperinci, konsisten dan menyeluruh.

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