Thursday, April 22, 2021

Court throws out bid by ex-Umno members to dissolve party

Federal Court bench says the relief sought by the former members is academic as the party has completed its elections at all levels.

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Sixteen former Umno members today failed in their appeal at the Federal Court to obtain leave to commence their challenge to dissolve the party for not holding party elections within the prescribed time.

A five-member bench led by Chief Judge of Malaya Azahar Mohamed held that the relief sought by the former Umno members in their judicial review application had become academic as the party had completed its party elections at all levels.

He said the status of the former Umno members was undisputed as they were no longer members of the political party by virtue of Clause 20.7 of the Umno Constitution.

Clause 20.7 states that a member is deemed to have been automatically expelled if that member proceeds to file any action in relation to matters concerning the party.

At the time the judicial review was filed, the appellants were still Umno members registered in various branches. Their memberships were terminated on April 21, 2018, a day after they filed the judicial review.

Azahar said the arguments by lawyer Mohd Hafarizam Harun, appearing for Ab Rauf Yusoh, on the academic and locus standi (legal standing) points had merit.

“Under the circumstances, based on these academic grounds, we see there is no necessity to answer the two leave questions posed,” he said in dismissing the appeal.

He said the actual dispute in the case revolved around the issue pertaining to the extension of time to conduct the political party’s election, adding that it concerned the dispute between members of the political party whose relationship was contractual in nature.

Azahar also said the general principle was that the court would not interfere in the internal affairs of political parties as this was a domestic concern.

The other judges presiding on the bench were Federal Court judges Abdul Rahman Sebli, Hasnah Mohammed Hashim, Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Rhodzariah Bujang. The proceeding was conducted online.

The 16 former Umno members had filed for leave to commence a judicial review, naming the Registrar of Societies (RoS) and Ab Rauf, in his capacity as the party’s public officer, as respondents.

They are Salihudin Ahmad Khalid, Noorhalimi Yahya, Mariam Mohd Ishak, Mohd Hafami Hanif, Saharudin Tukiman, Azaid Jani, Normalawati Hassan, Radiana Abd Manaf, Mohd Rafeek Rahim, Nurul Hanna Mohd Suhot, Kamarul Abd Wahid, Mohd Hikamal Md Hassim, Muzamzamir Abd Wahab, Norizam Jamaludin, Rohani Ahmad and Muhamad Hafizi Hashim.

Among others, they sought a certiorari order to quash the RoS’ decision, as announced through a media statement dated March 5, 2018, granting Umno an extension for its party elections until April 19, 2019, which exceeded the maximum period.

They further sought a mandamus to compel the RoS to provisionally dissolve Umno and for RoS to suspend all the party activities pending disposal of the judicial review.

They also sought a declaration to cease the legality of Umno branches and the dissolution of Umno divisions and its Supreme Council.

The High Court, on April 27, 2018, refused the group leave to commence the judicial review. They also lost their appeal in the Court of Appeal in November 2018.

The Federal Court last year granted the group leave to pursue their appeal on two legal questions.
The former Umno members were represented by lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla while senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan appeared for the RoS.

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