Ex-members’ bid to dissolve UMNO thrown out

by BERNAMA / pic by TMR FILE

PUTRAJAYA – Sixteen former UMNO members failed in their appeal in the Federal Court to obtain leave to commence their challenge to dissolve the political party (UMNO) for not holding party elections within the prescribed time.

A five-member bench led by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed held that the relief sought by the former UMNO members in their judicial review application has become academic as the party had completed its party election at all levels.

He said the status of former UMNO members were undisputed as they were no longer members of the political party by virtue of clause 20.7 of the UMNO Constitution.

Clause 20.7 states that a member is deemed to have been automatically expelled if that member proceeds to file any action in relation to matters concerning the party.

At the time of filing the judicial review, the appellants were still UMNO members registered in various branches. Their membership were terminated on April 21, 2018, a day after they filed the judicial review.

Justice Azahar said the arguments made by lawyer Datuk Wira Mohd Hafarizam Harun, appearing for Datuk Seri Ab Rauf Yusoh, on the academic and locus standi (legal standing) points had merits.

“In the circumstances, based on this academic ground, we see there is no necessity to answer the two leave questions posed,” he said when dismissing the appeal.

He said the actual dispute in this case revolved around the issue pertaining to the extension of time to conduct the political party’s election, adding that it concerned the dispute between members of the political party whose relationship was contractual in nature.

Justice Azahar said the general principle is that the court would not interfere in the internal affairs of political party as it was a domestic concern.

The other judges presiding on the bench were Federal Court judges Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli, Datuk Seri Hasnah Mohammed Hashim, Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang. The proceeding was conducted via Zoom.

The 16 former UMNO members filed leave to commence a judicial review, naming the Registrar of Society (RoS) and Ab Rauf, in his capacity as the party’s public officer, as respondents.

They are Salihudin Ahmad Khalid, Noorhalimi Yahya, Mariam Mohd Ishak, Mohd Hafami Hanif, Saharudin Tukiman, Azaid Jani, Normalawati Hassan, Radiana Abd Manaf, Mohd Rafeek Rahim, Nurul Hanna Mohd Suhot, Kamarul Abd Wahid, Mohd Hikamal Md Hassim, Muzamzamir Abd Wahab, Norizam Jamaludin, Rohani Ahmad and Muhamad Hafizi Hashim.

Among others, they sought a certiorari order to quash the RoS’ decision, as announced through a media statement dated March 5, 2018, to grant UMNO an extension for its party elections till April 19, 2019, which exceeded the maximum period.

They had further sought a mandamus to compel RoS to provisionally dissolve UMNO and for RoS to suspend all the party activities pending disposal of the judicial review.

They also sought a declaration to cease the legality of UMNO branches and the dissolution of UMNO divisions and its Supreme Council.

The High Court, on April 27, 2018, refused the group leave to commence the judicial review and they lost their appeal in the Court of Appeal in Nov 2018.

The Federal Court last year granted leave to the group to pursue their appeal on two legal questions.

The former UMNO members were represented by lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla while senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan appeared for the RoS.