A thorny path awaits Bersatu - Haniff Khatri

"What the party is trying to do is absurd."

Mohd Faizul Haika Mat Khazi
Mohd Faizul Haika Mat Khazi
04 Mar 2024 12:15pm

SHAH ALAM - There is no easy and short way for Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) to force its six members of Parliament who support Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to vacate the seats they won in the 15th General Election (GE15).

Lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla said the court process and legal procedures involving Bersatu's claims that start from the High Court until finalised by the Federal Court might take between one or three years depending on the circumstances and the judge's discretion.

In addition, he said, Bersatu also needed to remember that previously they failed in their application to initiate a judicial review at the High Court to challenge the decision of Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Johari Abdul who refused to vacate four parliamentary seats in Sabah.

The four seats involved Papar Member of Parliament Datuk Armizan Mohd Ali; Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan (Batu Sapi); Datuk Jonathan Yasin (Ranau) and Datuk Matbali Musah (Sipitang).

"For things like this, we cannot give an accurate estimation because we do not know when Bersatu or the six members of Parliament in question will file a judicial review in court.

"We also do not know whether they will file a judicial review correctly and completely or incompletely. If the application is incomplete, the review filing process will take longer," he told Sinar Premium.

Haniff Khatri said this while commenting on media reports that Bersatu's Special General Meeting on Saturday approved an amendment to Article 10 of the Bersatu Constitution that would allow the six members of Parliament who acted in support of the Prime Minister, to vacate their respective seats.

Bersatu President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the action was necessary because the current Bersatu constitution only allows the party leadership to suspend the six members of Parliament, without affecting their parliamentary seats.

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The six Bersatu Members of Parliament who expressed support for Anwar were Datuk Zulkafperi Hanapi (Tanjong Karang); Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal (Bukit Gantang); Zahari Kechik (Jelly); Mohd Azizi Abu Naim (Gua Musang); Datuk Iskandar Dzulkarnain Abdul Khalid (Kuala Kangsar); and Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman (Labuan).

Haniff Khatri added Bersatu might also have to wait up to about a month to allow the Registrar of Societies Malaysia (Ros) to approve the constitutional amendment which, among other things, contains the phrase that any member of Parliament who violates the instructions of the Supreme Leadership Council (MPT) is considered to have left the party.

"Usually RoS will make a decision within 30 working days. However, in this case, the RoS cannot work slowly because it not only involves the interests of the party but can even raise suspicion that there is supposed to be ministerial interference because the department is under the Home Ministry.

"So, I think the RoS will allow the amendment of Bersatu constitution as soon as possible, but the way the amendment is made cannot be backdated cunningly by asking the six members of Parliament to make a decision again.

"Why is it that after more than three or four months they expressed support for the Prime Minister now Bersatu has instructed them to state their position after the party's constitutional amendment was made," he commented.

Leave the party

Following that, Haniff Khatri disputed why Bersatu had just done so because many parties had already suggested that they amend the party's constitution, before GE15.

The Bersatu Constitution also asserted that 'anyone who does not follow the party's decision was considered to have left the party'.

"However, Article 49A of the Federal Constitution explains that 'leaving the party' means when a member of Parliament declares that he is now announcing that he is leaving the party either to become an Independent Member of Parliament or to join another party or an independent representative to join Party A or Party B.

"The definition of leaving the party or being considered to leave the party is already in the Constitution. The Federal Constitution has never stated that breaking party orders is considered as leaving the party. So, all this will be argued by lawyers in court.

"That's why I said from the beginning, to have an opportunity to argue in court, that Bersatu include the clause of switching support to another party or leader as one of the definitions of party jumping so that if there is a seventh or eighth member of Parliament who switches support to Anwar, then the amendment may be allowed used," he said.

For the record, Article 49(a) of the Constitution (Amendment) Act (No.3) 2022 (Act A1663) Prohibiting Members of the House of Representatives from Switching Parties or better known as the Anti-Hoping Party outlined that the act of switching support was not an act of party hopping.

Following that, Haniff Khatri said that Bersatu cannot force the six members of Parliament who have expressed their support for Anwar to vacate their respective seats even though Bersatu approved a constitutional amendment motion stating that any representative who violated the party's directives was considered party jumping.

He said the action of the six members of Bersatu Parliament who switched their support to the Prime Minister is the right of individuals elected as representatives of the people unless the matter is written in the party's constitution, before GE15.

"What Bersatu is trying to do is absurd. If Bersatu asked the six members of Parliament to make a decision again, they would surely say that we did not change parties.

"Therefore, Bersatu also needs to write a letter to request the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to order the six members of Parliament involved to vacate their respective seats following the amendment of the party's constitution last Saturday," he said.

However, he expected the Speaker to reject the application because Bersatu was seen to be trying to make a sneaky excuse, following that the amendment was approved after GE15 and did not apply to the six members of Parliament.

"Therefore, it is highly likely that the Speaker will decide that there is no need for the MP in question to vacate the seat as instructed by Bersatu because they made the decision to support Anwar before the party's constitutional amendment was made last Saturday.

"If Bersatu is not satisfied with the Speaker's decision, they can submit a judicial review to the court regarding the decision of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to determine whether the six members of Parliament should vacate the seats they won in the last GE15 or not," he said.