PETALING JAYA: Four ex-Penang assemblymen are seeking a court declaration that a resolution passed by the state’s legislative assembly in March vacating their seats is irregular, void, unlawful and defective.
Khaliq Mehtab Ishaq (Bertam), Zolkifly Lazim (Teluk Bahang), Zulkifli Ibrahim (Sungai Acheh) and Dr Afif Bahardin (Seberang Jaya) also want the High Court to declare that they were members of the assembly from 2018 until the house was dissolved on June 28 this year.
They are asking for an order that the assembly, named as the first defendant, pay all financial entitlements due to them until its dissolution.
Bukit Tambun assemblyman Law Choo Kiang, who was reappointed Speaker for a third term on Aug 29, has been named as the second defendant in the suit.
The motion was proposed to the assembly by then deputy chief minister Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman in February under the state’s anti-hopping law passed in 2012.
The law, set out in Article 14A of the Penang state constitution, says that an assemblyman shall vacate his seat if, having been elected as a candidate of a political party, he resigns or is expelled from the party, or if having been elected otherwise than as a candidate of a political party, he joins a political party.
The four were removed as assembly members on March 6.
Khaliq, who in June affirmed an affidavit in support of an originating summons on behalf of all four applicants, said the impugned motion was passed in bad faith.
He said the outcome of the vote had been predetermined as the legislative assembly was filled with a majority of assemblymen representing parties within the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
Khaliq and Zolkifly, who are Bersatu members, said the enactment did not apply to them as they never resigned, nor were they expelled, from PKR, under which banner they contested in the 14th general election (GE14) in May 2018.
Khaliq added that the state anti-hopping enactment did not apply to Zolkifly and him as they were never PKR members.
“Using the PKR logo in the 2018 election does not change the status of our membership,” he said.
Khaliq pointed out that PH – comprising PKR, DAP, Amanah and (at the time) Bersatu – were only registered as a coalition just after its success in winning GE14.
Bersatu left the coalition in 2020 and formed the federal government with BN, PAS and several regional parties from Sabah and Sarawak.
Khaliq said he and Zolkifly pulled out of the Penang government to be aligned with Putrajaya soon after Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed prime minister on March 1, 2020.
He said the defendants have improperly equated direct membership in a political party with membership of the coalition that party belongs to, so that switching their support for another coalition amounts to party-hopping.
He said the anti-hopping enactment did not apply to Zulkifli and Afif as they were summarily expelled from PKR without the right to be heard. There was no voluntariness or culpability on their part, he said.
He also said the state’s anti-hoping enactment must be interpreted harmoniously with the federal anti-hopping law passed by Parliament last year.
Law, in his affidavit in reply filed in August, said the four had challenged the constitutionality of the state’s anti-hoping enactment. He added that the Federal Court had in August last year declared that the state enactment did not violate Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution on freedom of association.
He said the apex court had in December last year dismissed a bid by the applicants to challenge the legislative assembly’s competence to pass the law.
Law added that the High Court had on March 3 this year also dismissed the application by the four to stop the legislative assembly from debating and passing the motion as the judiciary could not interfere in the affairs of the federal or state assemblies.
He said the present originating summons is an abuse of process and that the four are not entitled to any of the reliefs sought, including damages and costs.
“Any loss of reputation, if at all, would have been caused by their own conduct in betraying the mandate of their voters,” he said.
Lawyer A Surendra Ananth, who is a member of the legal team representing the defendants, said the High Court in Penang has fixed a hearing on Nov 9.