Govt rules out anti-hopping law, says it is against constitution

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Hanipa Maidin says there are no plans to amend the laws to stop politicians jumping ship.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has ruled out an anti-hopping law, saying any move compelling elected representatives who jump ship to vacate their state or parliamentary seats is unconstitutional.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Hanipa Maidin said such a move would not be in line with the provisions of the Federal Constitution.

“Article 48(1) and Part I(6) of the Eight Schedule of the Federal Constitution do not state that party hopping will lead to an MP or state assemblyman being disqualified,” he said.

Article 48(1) states that a person can be disqualified from both houses of parliament if he holds an office of profit, is declared to be of unsound mind, bankrupt or fails to lodge any return of election expenses as required by law.

Under the same article, a person can also be disqualified if he is convicted of an offence and sentenced to prison for a term of not less than one year or a fine of not less than RM2,000 with no free pardon.

Part I(6) lists the same criteria.

Hanipa, the deputy de facto law minister, also said that any suggestion to repeal Article 48(6) is also something Putrajaya must tread carefully on, taking into account why the section was included.

Article 48(6) states that a person who resigns his membership of the house of representatives shall, for a period of five years, beginning from the date on which his resignation takes effect, be disqualified from being a member.

The article was added to the constitution in a 1990 amendment tabled and passed during Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s former administration, Hanipa said.

At the time, Mahathir had said that there were no legal provisions stopping an MP or assemblyman from giving up his post and standing again in the subsequent by-election.

This would be a waste of time, energy and money.

Hanipa gave this explanation in a written parliamentary reply today to Khoo Poay Tiong (PH-Kota Melaka), who asked the prime minister whether laws would be amended to stop politicians from defecting.

He said while the government was open to suggestions to amend current laws, the Election Commission was of the view that for now, all citizens have the right to join whatever groups they wanted.

He also said a 1992 court ruling had decided that any law that curtailed a person from jumping parties would go against the right to form associations under Article 10 of the constitution.

He was referring to a Federal Court case involving the Kelantan state assembly and PAS assembyman Nordin Salleh.

PAS had its own anti-hopping rule then and when Nordin switched to Umno, the case went to court, which decided that such a rule was void as it violated freedom of association under Article 10.

Hanipa said that if the government intended to introduce any law to stop party hopping, the law must be spearheaded by Parliament and subject to restrictions under Article 10(2)(c) of the constitution.

Paragraph C states that Parliament can, by law, impose restrictions on the right to form associations “as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the federation or any part thereof, public order or morality”.