Lawyers tell what voters unhappy with defecting MPs can do

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has suggested that voters collectively engage with MPs whose crossovers led to the downfall of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Constitutional lawyer GK Ganesan said voters have legitimate expectations when they cast their ballots for candidates running under a particular party or coalition, and display trust in those for whom they vote.

He spoke of a breach of trust when MPs defect to set up a government which the people did not elect to run the country.

“Voters have every right to demand that MPs return to the party or coalition that they stood under to secure the valuable asset in the form of the seat,” he added.

He said aggrieved voters could also appeal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong regarding the conduct of MPs who had betrayed their trust.

While there is no express provision in the Federal Constitution that the monarch is the guardian of the people’s vote, he said, the spirit of the supreme law embodies justice, fairness, equality, integrity and accountability.

He said this when asked what voters could do about several MPs from Pakatan Harapan (PH) defecting to form another government.

The 21-month PH government disintegrated on Feb 24, after Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as prime minister and PPBM, one of the four coalition members, withdrew from the group.

Muhyiddin Yassin, who is PPBM president, was appointed to replace Mahathir as prime minister on March 1.

Another lawyer, R Kengadharan, said the nation is now in uncharted territory, and that voters should turn to the courts for civil remedy to exercise their constitutional rights.

“We should ask for an order that the rogue MPs resign from office or return to the original party or coalition,” he said.

Constitutional lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar meanwhile suggested a vote of no confidence against the prime minister.

If Parliament refuses to endorse Muhiyddin, he said, the king could dissolve the House for a fresh election or look for another prime minister to administer the nation.

Another lawyer, Bastian Pius Vendargon, said this was an opportune time to revisit a Federal Court declaration in 1992 that a state anti-hopping law was unconstitutional and invalid.

In the well-known case, Nordin Salleh (Sungai Pinang) and Wan Mohamed Najib Wan Mohamaed (Limbongan) won their state seats under the then-Semangat 46 ticket in the 1990 general election.

However, both defected to Umno in 1991. The Kelantan state assembly amended the state constitution and passed an anti-hopping law that took retrospective effect from Nov 18, 1990.

The speaker declared the seats vacant and both men contested again in by-elections but lost. The duo then sought legal remedy and were subsequently reinstated as assemblymen.

The Supreme Court in 1992 held that the amendment to the state constitution was designed to enforce party discipline, not impose restrictions on state assemblymen.

The court said the amendment breached Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of association.

Vendargon said the right to association which by implication includes the right to disassociate cannot be applied to candidates standing for election under a particular banner.