Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Quick takes on the anti-hopping bill with the law minister

Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar answers questions on whether the bill would affect state assemblies, what would happen if a state does not accept the bill, and the effect of Section 18(c) of the Societies Act.

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Q: Does the anti-hopping bill affect state legislative assemblies?

We will amend the eighth schedule of the constitution. The amendment of the eighth schedule relates to members of the state legislature.

The amendment is to provide autonomy to the state, to choose to implement the law or not to extend the law into the state.

So whether the state wants to accept the law or not, it’s up to the state.

Q: Will Sarawak implement the anti-hopping law?

For Sarawak, if the anti-hopping law is passed, the law cannot be enforced until it is given royal assent by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

This was suggested by our Sarawak premier during an engagement session on the proposed law. He suggested the enforcement of the law in Sarawak. The Agong needs to discuss with our governor, but this must be upon the advice of the premier. If it is agreed on, then only can the law be extended to Sarawak.

This is important so that no one will dispute it. I stand on the same ground with the premier on the question of the autonomy of the state to decide on its own laws. It is not for the federal (government) to decide for them.

Q: So what is Sarawak’s decision?

The amendment of the eighth schedule would provide space for the state to decide whether to accept the law or not.

There are a few states that already have their own anti-hopping law. For example, Sarawak, Kelantan, Penang and Sabah. However, the law is ineffective because Article 10(1) of the Federal Constitution guarantees the freedom of association.

This has caused problems with the law in Kelantan, which involved the case of Nordin Salleh.

With the amendment of the eighth schedule, it will be permissible for Sarawak (and other states) to decide whether the state wants to accept and enforce this law or otherwise.

Q: What if a state refuses to accept the anti-hopping law?

If a state refuses to accept the law, it means an assemblyman can switch parties, and the result would be like what happened in Perak two years ago.

Q: The bill says among others that those dismissed from their party will lose their seats. But at the same time, Section 18(c) of the Societies Act says party decisions cannot be challenged in court. Will this raise questions of fairness towards an elected representative just because he or she is dismissed?

This anti-hopping act is related to the status of an MP, when he or she is sacked from the party.

It means, those sacked from their parties will lose their seats as well, even if the sackings were wrongful, unfair or done under controversial circumstances.

For example, the president sacks an MP, not because of disciplinary issues but over some problems.

This was raised by Muhyiddin Yassin in the Dewan Rakyat recently.

But at the moment, we haven’t decided whether to include the dismissal issue in the amendment. So Section 18(c) of the Societies Act will continue as usual since we haven’t decided whether to include the issue in the amendment.

The problem with this act is the blanket right given to a party when it comes to the expulsion of its members.

Q: What happens if a party president causes the party to sack an MP not because of misbehaviour, but because the president is problematic?

Actually, this issue would not arise if the party did not sack its members in the first place.

If the president wants to sack, he can sack all of his MPs. Just sack everyone and then no one will want to work with him. But only an idiot would do this.

Drafting this anti-hopping law is very complex. The real concern among many MPs is that they will be disqualified as MP even if they are wrongfully sacked by their parties.

For example, Party ABC sacks its MP, so the MP’s status will automatically be void because the Federal Constitution says so.

Q: Do you think the law can be passed before July this year?

I have been working (on drafting the law) for eight months. Actually I was quite frustrated when the draft was not accepted by the MPs.

For example, recall laws in England. Even in Singapore, the dismissal issue has already been included in the anti-hopping law since the beginning.

So this means that the law in our country is still left behind. That’s all.

I don’t have anything personal because I’m just fulfulling my responsibility to take care of legal matters as an MP. But if this is what Malaysia wants, to let our law remain as it is, I have no problem with that.

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