Malaysians, particularly politicians who advocate the initiative to prevent political defections, were hopping mad when told that the tabling of the much-awaited “anti-party hopping” bill would be delayed.
De facto law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar revealed that the bill, scheduled to be presented in Parliament on 11 April, would be deferred because certain quarters in the government were not agreeable to particular provisions in the legislation, one of which was the definition of “party-hopping”.
The Santubong MP also expressed his own frustration over this delay after eight months of preparation.
It was also reported that the government would instead table on 11 April a constitutional amendment to enable anti-party hopping legislation.
The postponement has understandably angered the opposition given that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was clinched between itself and the government includes an item on crafting an anti-party hopping law during the first parliamentary session of this year.
Voices against this deferment were also strident among politicians in Umno, a number of whose politicians had in recent years jumped to rival parties.
Senior Umno politician Shahrir Abdul Samad, for example, was cutting in his criticism of the postponement, training his eyes on the so-called political frogs from his own party.
The former Johor Bahru MP accused those who defected from Umno and are now in the government, of being not happy with the proposed bill because they presently gain and enjoy influence and power, which he termed “rezeki” (sustenance).
But what is ironic is that he had criticised such politicians whose newly embraced parties were in cahoots with Umno when they toppled the Pakatan Harapan government in 2020 in the first place.
This brings us to the crux of the matter. Party-hopping has become a significant factor in Malaysian politics over the years to such an extent that it has brought about political instability in the country, as exemplified by the Sheraton Move and subsequently its derivatives in certain state governments.
The Mahiaddin Yasin administration walked on thin ice and consequently was short-lived after Umno politicians in the government pulled their support for Mahiaddin – only for the administration to be replaced by an Umno-led one.
Party-hopping also gives rise to the betrayal of the mandate given by the constituents concerned, which is clearly disturbing.
We also notice a high price had to be paid by ordinary people in the wake of party-hopping. Inducements, such as plum positions with handsome salaries and perks in the bloated federal cabinet as well as government-linked companies, were offered to those who made the leap even though a number of them were incompetent.
This obviously has caused tremendous bleeding of government coffers, as well as poor governance.
Party-hopping by the likes of politician Ibrahim Ali used to be a novelty that elicited a chuckle or two among Malaysians. But it became no longer a laughing matter when some politicians decided to outdo the former Pasir Mas MP, with principles callously thrown out the window.
So, even though an anti-party hopping law is rightly a concern among certain quarters because they consider it a violation of the freedom of association, as enshrined in Article 10 of our Federal Constitution, it appears that such a law has increasingly become a necessary evil in the interest of the country’s political stability and progress.
Having said that, the concern raised by Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah should also be taken into consideration in the debate. She feared that the anti-party hopping bill might give too much power to political parties and their leaders who would be inclined, for instance, to sack an MP for merely voting out of conscience against the party’s wishes.
If the definition of party-hopping has become a nagging problem, the discussion should then be brought to Parliament to ensure that MPs from all parties are involved in the endeavour to grapple with that concept.
Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim had already called on the government to table the bill so that MPs could then deliberate on the issue.
It’s time for barriers to be placed against party-hopping and for ‘hoppers’ to get themselves properly identified. – The Malaysian Insight