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Party-hoppers, where is your conscience? Where is your obligation?

Party-hopping is a curse to the democratic electoral process.

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For decades, the political system of Malaysia has been plagued by ‘party-hopping’ by most of our unscrupulous politicians out to make hay while the sun shines!

Party-hopping has become a political culture tolerated and encouraged to preserve the interests of certain dishonest politicians for whom scruples mean nothing. It doesn’t disturb their conscience when their actions mock the democratic process.

Sadly, at times, the laws of the land assist the survival of these dishonourable political scums. The so-called individual freedom of choice of a selfish politician is upheld to the detriment of the larger concerns of the entire community. In the name of freedom of association, they are allowed to be scoundrels!

We witnessed this in Sabah in the court of the mid-1990s. The same decision prevailed in the court case involving Kelantan. It was no exception in Perak. In all these instances, the pre-signed letters of resignation – submitted by the party to enforce the resignation of the turncoats – were unfortunately held to be illegal as it supposedly infringed on the freedom of association of a person.

However, a pre-signed letter of resignation submitted to the party by nominated candidates standing for election was meant to deter a state assembly member or a member of Parliament from switching parties after being elected. It was meant to ensure that an elected member remains with the party that fielded him to contest on behalf of the party.

Such an arrangement was seen as a necessary, even a commendable precaution to protect the interest of the party and keep faith with the electorate who expressed their confidence in electing him or her on that party’s ticket.

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But this had not worked in favour of the party. When such pre-signed letters were submitted to the Speaker to declare vacant the seats of those who had jumped ship, regrettably these letters could not be enforced. Courts have ruled that such letters were not lawful as it infringed on the right of association of a person. As such, the letters were nullified.

Such court rulings, although legally correct, were disappointing and frustrating to voters in a constitutional democracy where public opinion has an abiding role. While the courts safeguarded the right of the individual, how could they overlook the rights of an entire community that elected him in good faith in supporting the party’s manifesto?

Could the selfish interest of a single miserable character outweigh the entire interest of the electorate that voted him in? Doesn’t their electoral support amount to something? How about their majority opinion? Shouldn’t there be a consequence for betraying the electoral trust placed in him? Could the court ignore public opinion and political morality as factors in electoral cases?

When a candidate makes an open and public pledge to remain faithful to the party that fielded him for an election, shouldn’t that political pledge carry a moral obligation to honour it? Shouldn’t a new law prohibiting party-hopping allow our court to enforce morality in politics?

When a candidate puts down his signature on the letter of resignation, isn’t he undertaking a serious responsibility to remain true? What is the purpose of a pledge when at some point in the future he blatantly refuses to honour it without any consequence to him?

Based on the open pledge of loyalty to the party, a candidate receives the support of the voters. The votes cast were for the party and not for the individual. He has a moral obligation not to betray the party and the trust of the voters.

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Shouldn’t there be a consequence when he becomes a renegade? He can’t get off entirely scot-free! He had clearly and defiantly lied and cheated the voters who trusted him. By switching parties, he had nullified their votes and, worse, changed the political landscape. Doesn’t that deserve to be treated as an offence for reneging on his promise and pledge?

As things stand, it would appear that the law is prepared to tolerate a betrayal! Shouldn’t the law be interested in integrity and honour?

The courts should give some weightage to the broken promise when he refuses to be bound by his solemn pledge. Can he let down tens of thousands of voters who elected him in good faith and not be held responsible for a wilful act of extreme treachery? Shouldn’t the hypocrite be punished for totally ignoring his obligations to his voters for the trust placed in him?

From another angle, I would argue that there exists a contractual obligation between him and the party when an open pledge is made and his signature is added to his letter of resignation. His open pledge and his letter of resignation bind him irrevocably to his voters as well. This contractual obligation demands that he stays faithfully with the party and truly respects the decision of the voters.

When he refuses to be loyal to the voters, he must be made to pay a price. That price would mean he forfeits his claim to the seat. The seat should fall vacant immediately, and the voters must be given another chance to reaffirm their choice of party to represent them.

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It’s a great pity that all the reforms promised by Pakatan Harapan – one of which was addressing the party-hopping issue – could not be implemented. The reason for this was Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He didn’t want to fix it because he wanted to recruit party hoppers. To strengthen his hand and party, he actively recruited those from Umno who tolerated Najib Razak’s thieving, kleptocratic ways. He managed to attract about a dozen party-hoppers from Umno, the party that Mahathir had roundly condemned.

Pakatan Harapan must address this issue seriously and pledge to outlaw party hopping when it comes to power after GE 15. Malaysians would like to be assured that this issue will be fixed during the first 100 days of governance.

Party-hopping is a curse to the democratic electoral process. It must be put to rest permanently once and for all to bring back dignity to parliamentary democracy.

We must never tolerate or forgive all those party-hoppers who have turned our politics topsy-turvy. There should be no room for hypocrites. All these hypocrites have displayed the characteristics that was condemned by the Holy Prophet:

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Among the signs of a hypocrite are three, even if he fasts and prays and claims to be a Muslim: when he speaks he lies, when he gives a promise he breaks it, and when he is trusted he betrays.”

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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IT. Scheiss
IT. Scheiss
17 Mar 2021 4.36am

As for those activists who braved tear gas, water cannon, arrest and detention in support of Anwar and the Reformasi against BN and UMNO since 1998, I’m pretty sure that they will be feeling rather betrayed by Anwar’s willingness to ally with a faction within UMNO to win GE15, as he said in the press conference on 16 March 2020.

If Anwar had waited until he became a BN/UMNO PM before he challenged Mahathir back in 1998, I’m pretty sure that the last 23 years of Malaysian politics would have followed a very different course.

IT. Scheiss
IT. Scheiss
17 Mar 2021 4.26am

Also, not only Mahathir during his second round as PM for encouraging party hopping but also Anwar who said that 30 BN MPs would hop to Pakatan by 16/09/2008. Both sides want to benefit from party hopping, so are not inclined to do anything about it.

Malaysia needs a third force, an independent, multi-ethnic, workers, smallholders and petty traders oriented party which seeks to win power so that it can implement people-friendly laws and policies.

IT. Scheiss
IT. Scheiss
17 Mar 2021 4.16am

As I had written before in comments on this site, instead of a law which penalises MPs and ADUNs for switching party mid-term, there should be a law whereby if an MP or ADUN switches mid-term, the seat will fall vacant, a byelection is called and that former MP or ADUN will have to contest the seat under their new party, if they want to regain it. This will be fair on voters and will also serve as a deterrent to party hopping mid-term.

However, given the shifting political alliances and coalitions between parties right now, with the likelihood that we could have a hitherto “inconceivable” coalition government in GE15, such a law seems most likely off the radar of most MPs, ADUNs and political parties right now.

Gursharan Singh
Gursharan Singh
14 Mar 2021 12.04pm

Is it not a possibility that FROGGING may

In ‘YB’ the ‘B’ is said to represent BERHORMAT-BERUSAHA-BERBAHAGIA depending on the status of the holder
but in reality could it be that in some cases it may be indicating perception of thier absence as evidenced by cases of some YB titles holders being investigated-charged-convicted-free on bail?

May be common in some other countries also.

Bless all

13 Mar 2021 7.59pm

Ethics and morals need to be crucial pillars of national progress. We can still move forward in truth and the Right as in the eyes of godliness. We can renew our efforts for a strong nationhood entity of a ONE Malaysia. TRue and real education of our young in the principles and VALUES of RUKUN NEGARA, FEDERAL CONSTITUTION, HISTORY OF our nation, can establish the FOUNDATION NEEDED for a vibrant Malaysia.

loyal malaysian
loyal malaysian
9 Mar 2021 2.15pm

Rama, your question is an oxy-moron -party hoppers have no conscience!!
The judiciary in its infinite wisdom has deemed those letters barring party hopping unconstitutional?
So , what is the rakyat left with – a cesspool at Putrajaya filled with frogs feeding off the income of the rakyat. Yes, also the GLCs with the chairpeople gobbling huge chunks of income.

Will all hypocrites take heed:
“.. even if he fasts and prays and claims to be a Muslim: when he speaks he lies, when he gives a promise he breaks it, and when he is trusted he betrays.”

Angeline Loh
9 Mar 2021 1.47pm

Law is a 2 edged sword, it can be used for good and bad. Laws do not equal justice. Law without justice is tyranny and despotism. Beware!

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