Opposition wants clear definition of anti-hopping

pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

Does the proposed law also consider a political party that joins another as an act of party-hopping?

THE opposition leaders demand the government to clearly define the anti-hopping definition to prevent any future power abuse.

Parti Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal (picture) said on top of individual lawmakers who switch their political allegiance, does the proposed law also consider a political party that joins another as an act of party-hopping.

“Will action be taken to a party that jumps to join another party? Can this law be applied to a situation like this?” he said during his debate in the Special Dewan Rakyat session yesterday.

“It was not my intention to quit the party but only to question the administration of the country. (But) I was expelled from the party and the government,” the Semporna MP said, in reference to his suspension in 2016 over his objection against 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

“I would like to propose that any MPs who have been found clearly guilty by the Anti-Hopping Law supervisory body, that they should not be allowed to contest in any seats, whether it is parliamentary or in the state assembly, for at least two terms,” the former Sabah chief minister said.

“We need to be clear that the purpose of this Anti-Hopping Law is to bring stability to the government by not encouraging MPs from changing parties. The law does not recognise a ‘split’ in the legislative party but recognises ‘mergers’,” he said.

PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, meanwhile, said the government should give more time to finetune the details on its proposal to add a new provision 3A under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution in order to prevent power abuse.

He also proposed for the government to table the Anti-Hopping Bill and the constitutional amendment next month.

Kuching MP Kelvin Yii also stressed that the definition of party-hopping must be defined specifically in the constitution with all the necessary safeguards and not merely be passed with a simple majority in the Parliament.

“It must be part of the fundamental structure of the constitution itself. If not, any government in the future can just simply change the definition of ‘hopping’ to disqualify an MP by a mere simple majority vote which every government will have. This is a clear abuse of power and we cannot allow this door to be opened.

“With the initial amendments of Article 10 by the government, it is clear that one of the main fundamental liberties is being threatened with a vague and possible overreaching interpretation. That is why in all good conscience, we cannot support it,” he said.

Yii added he supports the decision to refer it back to the Select Committee to refine the amendments as soon as possible to avoid further delay on what could be described as a landmark bill in the country.

Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah in a statement said the proposed constitutional amendment is treacherous on many counts as it does not stop at just anti-hopping but overreaches to possible abuse of the ruling government to control other political parties.

“The proposed amendment is a simplistic approach to the prevailing multitude of anti-hopping issues currently faced in our nation, which may cause MPs or Members of State Legislative Assemblies to lose their seats. Article 48 of the Federal Constitution already provides for such circumstances. Amending Article 10 of the Federal Constitution without amending Article 48 will not prevent anti-hopping, and as such, any subsequent Anti-Hopping Law passed should still be regarded as unconstitutional,” she said in a statement yesterday.

According to Cheah, the government does not address the anti-hopping issue, but instead creates a whole different dynamic on democratic abuse — (1) a law can be passed to expel MPs from their political party for being fined RM1,000 (or whatever discretionary quantum) and it could be also be passed to expel MPs and/or Members of State Legislative Assemblies who have been arrested on national security grounds, which would then cause them to lose their membership in their respective political parties.

“In essence, the proposed amendments will cause MPs and/or Members of State Legislative Assemblies to lose their freedom of association more than ever when it comes to their respective membership in political parties in the event that the Constitution has prevailing articles that would disadvantage their positions, or in the event that it is amended to cater to such abuse. Hence, this constitutional amendment may create a situation where the ruling government of the day can create greater control over its members and other coalition political parties,” she explained.