No stopping parties from switching sides, say MP, lawyer
By Ainin Wan Salleh, Free Malaysia Today (27 May 2022) PETALING JAYA: A PKR leader and a lawyer have sought to explain why the proposed anti-hopping law would not prevent another Sheraton Move, noting that it was never aimed at doing so. Subang MP Wong Chen said the anti-hopping bill was mooted to prevent elected MPs from betraying their parties, not to stop political entities from crossing the aisle.
“The anti-hopping bill is not designed to prevent another Sheraton Move. The problem is when an individual jumps parties,” he told FMT.
Wong Chen pointed out that the Sheraton Move was a combination of a political party (Bersatu) leaving the Pakatan Harapan coalition and also some MPs switching parties. “If we had an anti-hopping law then, the Sheraton Move would have failed because the individual MPs who had betrayed their party would have also automatically lost their seats,” he said.
Yesterday, law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the anti-hopping law would not prevent a repeat of the Sheraton Move and that it would not apply to MPs who had been sacked by their parties. According to a report, Wan Junaidi said the practice of parties changing coalitions had been the main issue deliberated since January, but the parliamentary select committee set up to draft the bill decided to follow international practice.
In other countries, he said, anti-hopping laws only prevented individuals from hopping parties, adding that many ruling coalitions were only formed after elections anyway. Wong Chen agreed, saying there was no law in the world that could prevent a whole party from switching camps and that Malaysia would be a pioneer if it legislated one to that effect.
Lawyer Philip Koh, also an adjunct professor at Universiti Malaya (UM), said political parties must be given the right to associate and dissociate to form coalitions. “It is an important part of democracy that cannot be legislated away,” he told FMT.
Koh said whether the Sheraton Move repeated itself or otherwise would boil down to how MPs regard the mandate given to them by the people when making decisions. “A betrayal of that mandate ought to be punished by the electorate, but that may or may not happen,” he said.
Meanwhile, DAP’s Charles Santiago said Wan Junaidi’s statement was “deeply concerning” and urged other members of the select committee on the bill to voice their opinions on the matter.
“The purpose of the anti-hopping law is to prevent another undemocratic process whereby the government is overthrown by an internal coup d’etat,” the Klang MP told FMT.