Anti-hopping law necessary due to Malaysia’s political history, says academic

Earlier today, Dr Mahathir during a question-and-answer session at a conference said there was no need for anti-hopping laws as members of a political party linked to a bad government may need to switch sides. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Earlier today, Dr Mahathir during a question-and-answer session at a conference said there was no need for anti-hopping laws as members of a political party linked to a bad government may need to switch sides. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 — A Singaporean academic today backed the idea of enacting an anti-hopping law for politicians in Malaysia, in view of the country’s political history.

In a Malaysiakini report, Kevin Tan from the Singapore Management University made the statement in response to an attendee’s question on whether he agreed with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s stance that the country didn’t need such laws during a question-and-answer session at the regional LawAsia Constitutional and Rule of Law Conference 2019 here.

Tan said such a law was required in light of members of a political party suddenly jumping to a different party at critical moments after general elections.

“I do not think I agree with Tun’s (Mahathir) response. Anti-hopping law is important, given the political history of Malaysia.

“We saw members of different (political) parties enticed to switch between parties at critical moments following (general) elections.

“We have people switching parties, and (a situation where) somebody runs to the Palace to appoint a new MB (mentri besar).

“That is more dangerous than the perceived right to decide to hop,” Tan said at the conference.

Tan was among the speakers during a session moderated by lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan titled ‘Why a Separation of Powers in Government? Its Importance to Constitutionalism’.

Earlier, Dr Mahathir during a question-and-answer session after his keynote speech at the conference said there was no need for anti-hopping laws as members of a political party linked to a bad government may need to switch sides.

“When faced with a government that is really bad, and you cannot hop, do you still have to stay with the government? I think that is not going to contribute to good governance.

“So I think you should be able to hop and change party. And you do that for good reasons, not because you see that if you are close to the new PM (prime minister), you might become a minister. If that is the reason why you are hopping, that is bad,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said even though a political party member should not hop for frivolous reasons, party-hopping was acceptable in circumstances where said members have self-control and self-discipline as well as doing good for a living.

During Parliament last year, de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong said in a parliamentary written reply that an anti-party hopping law to deter lawmakers from defecting was not in the works as every citizen had the right under the Federal Constitution to form association.

Liew had cited a Federal Court case involving the Kelantan state assemblyman Nordin Salleh in 1992. PAS had its own anti-hopping rule then, and when Nordin switched to Umno, the case went to court.

The apex court then ruled that such a rule was void as it violated freedom of association under Article 10 of the Constitution.

Related Articles