Pakatan mess may end up in court

Analysis by WONG SAI WAN (The Star)

The mess in the Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak stems from in-fighting within the coalition parties and also intra-party differences.

Of course, standing on the sidelines waiting to take advantage of the situation is Barisan Nasional.

However, until yesterday, the Perak Pakatan had been able to keep a lid on things until a decision was made to submit undated resignation letters to the State Assembly speaker V. Sivakumar.

Sivakumar then announced that he had received the letters from two PKR executive councillors Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi and Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu stating that they had resigned from their Behrang and Cangkat Jering seats respectively.

Within hours, the two men, who had been incommunicado for the past five days, issued statements denying they had submitted such letters, claiming that undated resignation letters which they were forced to sign after they were elected on March 8 last year had been used.

This dispute will surely end up in court if Sivakumar goes ahead to inform the Election Commission that the seats are vacant and calls for by-elections.

According to lawyers, there had been cases before dealing with the usage of such undated resignation letters to force a seat to be vacated.

In 1992, the Supreme Court had ruled that using such undated letters were not valid as it was against the freedom of association provision under the Federal Constituion.

The Federal Constitution guarantees the freedom of association under Article 10(1)(c).

The Supreme Court in 1992 decided that this freedom necessarily includes the right to dissociate.

In this case where Nordin Salleh and a few others quit PAS to join Barisan in 1990 but the State Constitution had an anti-hopping law.

In so concluding, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional legislation by which the Kelantan state constitution had been amended to declare a seat vacant if an assemblyman resigned from his political party.

Lawyers argue that the same principle should be applied to usage of undated resignation letters as it is disallows the free to associate or disassociate.

Jamaluddin and Osman – if they are able to get those letters declared null – are not expected to join a Barisan party and would remain as independent assemblymen.

However, their withdrawal would leave their former allies in a precarious position.

Even with the recent defection of Barisan Bota assemblyman Datuk Nasarudin Hashim to PKR, the Perak Pakatan will have only 30 seats, against Barisan’s 27 and the two independents.

It is widely speculated that some other PKR and DAP elected representatives are also thinking of leaving the coalition.

Nerves were so on edge when Sivakumar’s deputy Hee Yit Foong “disappeared” for a few hours and missed an emergency Pakatan meeting yesterday that DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng issued a stern warning that his representatives who go incommunicado without proper cause for 24 hours may find their seats vacated.

It turned out that she was visiting her mother for Chinese New Year (at a late-night press conference, she said she was sick) but Lim’s statement have caused the Perak DAP situation to take a turn for the worse.

There are said to be three factions in the state party – one aligned to Perak chief Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham and his cousin Nga Kor Ming, another to Batu Gajah Fong Po Kuan and the third to Ipoh Barat M. Kulasegaran.

Although they had been able to co-exist without much public dispute since March 8, quarrels have begun to bubble to the surface of late.

Hee, who is aligned to Fong, has expressed her disappointment with the statement by Lim, whom Ngeh and Nga, are aligned to at the national level.

Party sources said those unhappy with the two cousins are making use of the instability in the Perak Pakatan to try to curb their stranglehold on the party.

The present state government is not without a choice.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin is to seek an audience with the Perak Sultan today over the present situation.

He could ask the Ruler to dissolve the State Assembly for a fresh state election.

It remains to be seen if both sides – Pakatan and Barisan – fancy their chances in a fresh election.