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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Enact law to stop party hopping or face more Sheraton moves

 

Malaysian fans of the English Premier League are a funny lot. Their loyalty to English football clubs can never waver, sticking to the club of their choice through thick and thin.

Sometimes I wonder if their support for teams so alien is worth much more than the “death do us part” oath at marriage ceremonies. Some even say switching support in the EPL is akin to changing wives!

But what shocks me is that these same Malaysians, who abhor such acts of disloyalty in the EPL, seem to ignore such displays of inconstancy in the country’s politics.

Some blithely ignore the ugly and disdainful practice of party hopping by the people they chose to elect, choosing to stay mum if it suits their political agenda. But they cry foul and scream when the action works against the party of their choice.

Every Malaysian knows that this action, which to many is nefarious, is what led to the political instability that we have endured for about a year now. The politicians who caused this might coolly ignore the anger on the ground but the fact remains that Malaysia is now torn apart by their actions.

A year after the Sheraton Move rocked the nation, another ugly episode of defecting politicians has surfaced. At least two MPs from PKR and six assemblymen from Warisan are rumoured to be switching support to the ruling PN government.

Warisan’s Sebatik assemblyman Hassan A Gani Pg Amir left his Sabah party and switched his support to the ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah state government.

Hassan said that his decision to leave Warisan was made to bring stability to the country in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. This blatant lie is exactly what irks most Malaysian voters, when they try to cloak such treacherous acts with claims of making sacrifices for the nation and the people. Yeah, right.

The elected representatives, who cause much anger and frustration among the voters who opted for the party, then use Article 10 of the Federal Constitution as a shield despite knowing such a practice is disgusting to say the least.

This clause, which gives every Malaysian the right of association, also empowers them with the right to dissociate.

In 1978, veteran DAP politician Lim Kit Siang, whose party was hit by defections then, unsuccessfully introduced a private member’s bill on this matter. He was pushing for an elected representative to vacate his seat within 30 days of his resignation or expulsion from his party.

The bill required a by-election at which the MP would be eligible to seek a new mandate from the electorate. This, if it had been passed, would have prevented the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government last year.

Significantly, the collapse of the federal and four state governments a year ago has been the direct result of the unscrupulous change of allegiance by legislators.

The winners were overjoyed, hugging and even shedding tears amidst claims that they were doing it for the nation, for the unity of race and religion.

But half the nation was hopping mad, calling for the “political frogs” to be punished. Unfortunately, there are currently no legal provisions to act against them.

Defections on such a vast scale and of such great consequence to the country’s political system were unprecedented. The Sabah snap election last year, which was called after some assemblymen from the ruling party switched, is one such glaring example.

We would be lying through our teeth if we deny that the politics of defection have put a heavy strain on the true functioning of democracy and Parliament in our nation.

Apart from this, relationships and friendships have come under much stress too. Most importantly, the image of our politicians has taken a severe beating.

Many now say openly that the cure for defection is a law under which the defector would cease to be a member of the legislature.

The member who defects commits political immorality and the whole action is indecent and in most cases than not it tends to create public disorder, like we are facing now.

The poor masses give our elected representatives and the party they represent the trust with that one vote to guard and protect us for the next five years.

Malaysia must stop this unbecoming practice once and for all. The bottom line is simple – do not give any elected representative an opportunity to switch parties after an election.

Any party which is honest enough to push for this enactment will, without doubt, win the hearts of most Malaysians. Such a law will effectively stop the corrupt practices involved in enticing elected representatives to switch parties for rewards.

I am one of those who strongly believe that good sense will prevail and politicians will realise that party hopping not only destabilises any government in power, but also sends a wrong message to the people that it’s fine to be dishonest. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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