In future general elections, choose candidates of moral integrity, and they should be made to make public pledges that they will not betray the trust of the people, Ronald Benjamin writes.
In Malaysian politics we have reached a state of moral crisis where the electoral mandate of the people has been taken for granted by self-serving politicians.
The latest defections by Azman Nasiruddin (Lunas) and Robert Ling (Sidam) in the Kedah State Assembly is a consequence of historical neglect by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government and even Pakatan Harapan (PH) on grasping the far-reaching implications of such defections and behaviour on the integrity of the people’s mandate and the moral credibility of the government.
It should not be forgotten that it was the moral distrust of the majority of the electorate that brought down the kleptocratic government of Najib Razak.
It was hoped that a new dawn would emerge with PH in power, which would bring about changes that would enhance electoral integrity. Unfortunately, the coalition was held hostage by power play and ethnic politics, which had all the flavours of racism instead of the common good. There should have been more focus on maruah rakyat (the dignity of the people) than maruah Melayu (the dignity of the Malays).
Looking at the history of party defections, the BN government has been the main beneficiary due to its strong ethnocentric politics and financial means. A government by the people and for the people is projected in form rather than substance during general elections.
What can one expect from the current Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, which is helmed by immoral politicians from the past and present?
The defections of Umno MPs from Bersatu should not have been allowed at that time when PH was in power, and the coalition should have initiated a law to prevent defections. One would assume that Umno would have supported an anti-defections law back then, when its own MPs were jumping ship. Time and opportunities were wasted. There were voices from DAP youth and PKR opposing such crossovers, but not strong enough to get the PH presidential council to reject such defections.
Formulating a law to prevent defections would require passing constitutional hurdles. Article 48(1) and Part I(6) of the Eight Schedule of the Federal Constitution do not state that defections will lead to an MP or state assembly member being disqualified.
Article 48(6) states that a person who resigns his membership of the house of representatives shall, for a period of five years, beginning from the date on which his resignation takes effect, be disqualified from being a member. Politicians could be reluctant to vacate their seat due to this aspect of the law.
The article was added to the Constitution in a 1990 amendment tabled and passed during Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s former administration.
All this was done from a position of power and strength without having the wisdom of understanding that it would backfire someday.
The backdoor PN government currently finds legitimacy of power by providing favourable positions in government-linked companies to dissenting MPs. Coming up with a law to prevent defections is not possible under a government that has benefited from people defecting to its side.
The ball goes back to the people in the next general election to choose candidates of moral integrity, and those candidates should be made to make public pledges that they will not in any way betray the trust of the people.