MAY 28 — Senior lawyer Philip Koh Tong Ngee, who is also Adjunct Professor at the University of Malaya, has offered his thoughts on the anti-hopping law.
According to the learned senior lawyer, any constitutional amendment ought to be, first and foremost, simple and concise.
A single new constitutional provision should be passed: “The seat of a Member of Parliament shall become vacant when he ceases to be a member of, or resigns or is expelled from the political party for which that member contested in the election.” Philip has rightly alluded to Article 46(2)(b) of the Singapore Constitution which is similarly worded, that the “seat of a Member of Parliament shall become vacant if he ceases to be a member of, or is expelled or resigns from, the political party for which he stood in the election.” In short, the law in Singapore is simple and is provided for by the highest law of the land. It has been the law since 1963 — that’s almost 60 years now.
For the purpose of our anti-party hopping law, the “single new constitutional amendment” as proposed by Philip can be used to substitute clause (6) of Article 48 of the Federal Constitution which mandates a five-year disqualification for MPs who resign from their seat.
Party hoppers will therefore be allowed to recontest at a by-election to seek renewal of their mandate.
This should strike a balance between freedom to associate and the need to honour the trust and mandate of the people — as the case is in Singapore which does not have a similar clause (6) in her Constitution.
It is important to appreciate that a constitutional provision on anti-party hopping will not be in conflict with Article 10(1)(c) on the right to form associations as constitutional provisions are to be read harmoniously to avoid seeming conflicts between them.
Therefore, the proposed clause (3A) to be inserted to Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, to allow Parliament to make an anti-party hopping law by an Act of Parliament, is not necessary.
What remains is to define “political party.” The Societies Act 1966 has a definition of the term which can be adopted.
However, the term will have to include a coalition of political parties or any political association.
The latter can be defined as “a political party or coalition of political parties (or an organisation) that has as one of its objects or activities the promotion or procuring of the election to Parliament.” (See Singapore’s Section 2 of the Political Donation Act 2000) Anti-hopping law can be simple. As Philip asserts, it is the way forward.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.