KUCHING, July 3 — The issue of party-hopping dominated conversations at the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections’ (Bersih) ‘Voters Supremacy’ townhall event at a local hotel here today.

Bersih chairman Thomas Fann remarked that the issue of party-hopping is not new to the country but it was the first time such behaviour among politicians had brought down a democratically elected federal government in 2020 in the ‘Sheraton Move’.

“From the very first days after the ‘Sheraton Move’ political crisis, we in Bersih had sat down together to discuss on the development and the single most important issue identified was the culture of party hopping,” said Fann.

Fann appeared virtually at the townhall event as he has been barred from entering Sarawak since 2016.

The chairman revealed that the non-governmental organisation (NGO) had studied various anti-party-hopping laws in other countries, including the requirement for a by-election for a constituency to be immediately called when the elected representative is sacked or left his or her political party.

As a result of bipartisan support for anti-party-hopping laws to stabilise the country’s political climate, a special parliamentary committee was set up to look into legislation, he mentioned.

A parliamentary session on April 11 this year witnessed elected representatives across the political divide engaging in meaningful debate on such laws, he added.

As for equitable constituency development funds to Members of Parliament (MP), Fann said Bersih had consistently pushing for it and the recent signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) led to opposition MPs being given about RM3.5 million a year to run their service centres as well as allocation for their constituency.

“However, we want the equitable allocations to be adopted into permanent laws and not done so at the discretion of the prime minister,” said Fann.

Meanwhile, Bersih vice-chairwoman and co-founder of Rise of Social Efforts (ROSE) Ann Teo said their organisation had been advocating reforms of the Election Commission (EC).

Teo addresses issue of voters’ suppression at the townhall session. — Borneo Post pic
Teo addresses issue of voters’ suppression at the townhall session. — Borneo Post pic

Such reforms include providing advance voting facilities for Sabahan and Sarawakian voters living in Peninsular Malaysia and reforming postal voting for Malaysians living overseas.

“We are suggesting that special advance polling centres be set up whenever there is an election so that the Sarawakians can go to the advanced polling centres to cast their votes in the normal way,” she said.

Teo called for advance voting to be implemented with constituents applying and fulfilling the criteria set by EC to be advance voters, similar to the process undergone by the law enforcement personnel to cast their votes in advance of any elections.

The six demands of Bersih are ‘Don’t Suppress Our Votes’, ‘Stop Party-Hopping’, ‘Make Parliament Independent of the Executive’, ‘Abolish Draconian Laws’, ‘No Double Standards’ and ‘Give Ratepayers A Voice’.

Aside from the townhall session, there was also a forum where Senator Robert Lau from Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) and Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How of Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) exchanged views on the issues of party hopping, constituency development funds and local government elections.

Democratic Action Party (DAP) Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong was also present during the townhall event. — Borneo Post