Ex-Umno members should also have an opportunity to ask where the Registrar of Societies got the authority to grant a further extension for the party to hold its polls, writes AH Ponniah.
When a political party is deemed dead according to its own constitution, it is the party that broke the contract with the members.
First, it is the party rules that permitted an extension to the deadline to hold party elections. There is no cause to obtain any letter of extension from the Registrar of Societies. Since the party’s own extension period was not followed through, it is moot for the RoS to talk about approving an extension. Not applicable.
Then the judge’s decision. Can the party rules (prohibiting members from bringing internal issues to court) apply in a case where the members who took to the courts are ousted? Yes, it can but when the party itself has ceased, the power bestowed on officials to make such a declaration does not exist any longer. One could call them caretaker officials or ex-officials without any power to touch on fundamental rights. Certainly, they don’t have any power to even say someone is sacked.
One could liken these officials and their political party to a corpse, and what remains is for the RoS to choose the burial ground or to determine the steps that must immediately be taken to revive the party.
How are any internal grievances to be dealt with during this period, then? The party procedures automatically fall into the hands of the courts as we are a country of executive, legislative and judiciary. During such a ‘wake’ period, ex-members can only rely on the judiciary as a last resort.
The judicial route lies in the courts, which are duty bound to provide a hearing and uphold fair play. So here it simply means the judge needs to examine what has happened.
Im the Umno case, the judge was of course right in dismissing the Umno lawyers’ intervention, because those functions are now his. What amazes me is that the judge went back to make an RoS call, when one must be duly heard.
The judge’s verdict given here simply ends up automatically resuscitating the corpse and affirming the RoS’ right in defending the corpse. It ends up showing that this was all a judge could do.
Really, is that how we get justice to be seen and done?
I am not sure what grounds the aggrieved members are going to rely on, but they might have to argue the judge was wrong to give life to the corpse but exclude the basic right to a hearing.
Ex-members also have an opportunity to ask where the RoS got the authority to grant a further extension or if no extension was needed in the first instance.
AH Ponniah is a former Cuepacs secretary general (1989-1996) and MTUC vice-president (1976-1988).