Courting trouble in Perak

Legal and political storm over status of PKR reps

Or will the Pakatan Raykat-led Perak government opt to seek dissolution of the state assembly and call for fresh state elections?

By Deborah Loh (The Nut Graph)

THE political and legal storm in Perak over the disputed status of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) assemblypersons for Behrang and Changkat Jering is not going to die down anytime soon. Though by-elections for the two state legislative assembly seats are off, the unfolding saga threatens to bring down the Pakatan Raykat-led state government.

At the heart of the matter is the validity of the undated resignation letters that Jamaluddin Mat Radzi (PKR-Behrang) and Mohd Osman Jailu (PKR-Changkat Jering) were made to sign along with other Perak Pakatan Rakyat representatives after the March 2008 general election.

Both reps denied resigning as assemblypersons and say they did not send those letters to the Perak Speaker V Sivakumar on 1 Feb. They also say they intend to challenge their resignations in court.

Jamaluddin (left) and Osman (Source:
Jamaluddin and Mohd Osman had written to the Election Commission (EC), claiming that the resignation letter sent to Sivakumar was not authorised. This was the basis used by the EC when it decided on 3 Feb not to hold by-elections. Not surprisingly, the Perak government has announced that it will challenge the EC's decision.

Associate and disassociate

Parallels have been drawn between the disputed resignations of the two PKR Perak reps and the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly vs Nordin Salleh case decided by the Supreme Court in 1992.

Most comparisons drawn with Nordin Salleh are quick to conclude that the letters can be challenged because of their effect of forcing elected representatives to vacate their seats in the state legislative assembly. This was found to have violated Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of association.

The Supreme Court in 1992 had declared that this article also covered the right to disassociation.

However, upon closer inspection, one would find a subtle difference between the ongoing Perak drama and Nordin Salleh.

In the latter, the issue at stake was Kelantan's enactment of an anti-hopping law, whereby any member of the state legislative assembly who resigns or is expelled from the political party he or she contested under is punished, so to speak, by having his or her seat vacated.

The plaintiffs in the case were elected to the state assembly on Semangat 46 tickets during the 1990 general election. They resigned from their party the following year, causing their seats to be vacated and by-elections held.

In the current Perak case, Jamaluddin and Osman's pre-signed letters were with regards to their posts in the state assembly, and not their party. Does the question of freedom to associate or disassociate arise, if they had not quit PKR at the time the letters were sent?

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