Stop political corruption: Stop party-hopping

What must not be tolerated is the betrayal of voters who had cast their votes in favour of a candidate who then decides to party-hop after winning, says P Ramakrishnan in supporting anti-party-hopping legislation. 

P Ramakrishnan

It is difficult to justify why anyone would want to oppose an anti-party-hopping legislation that holds out hope for morality in politics. Any sane person should welcome this move so that elected representatives who betray their electors cannot go scot-free. These renegades cannot ignore the mandate of the voters who elected them.

The proposed legislation by the Penang State government does not prevent anyone from leaving their current party. They are free to go and join any party and associate themselves with whatever party they choose to keep company. There is no law to prevent them from jumping ship!

All that an anti-party-hopping legislation seeks to do is to force a by-election so that the voters who had been betrayed could be given the opportunity to decide once again whether they still want renegades or defectors to continue as their elected representatives. Those who initially elected the renegades must have the right to decide whether they still want them as their elected representative.

What must not be tolerated is the betrayal of the voters who had cast their votes in favour of a candidate who then decides to party-hop after winning. The voters’ electoral decisions cannot be sidelined and totally ignored as if they were of no consequence.

Besides, anti-party-hopping legislation also seeks to curb political corruption. Undoubtedly, there is always an element of corruption involved, some attractive inducement held out to corrupt politicians to switch sides. Unscrupulous politicians offer themselves for sale without a tinge of conscience. Otherwise there would be no reason to switch parties.

We witnessed in horror how these unscrupulous politicians unconscionably frustrated the will of the voters in Perak by resigning from their respective parties to enable an ignoble takeover of a people’s government by the Barisan Nasional. This shameful conduct was given so much prominence and publicity on TV with the then Deputy Prime Minister, who is believed to have orchestrated this despicable act, welcoming their decision as if these scoundrels have performed a fantastic feat! It was this morally contemptible act that toppled a legitimate government that was duly elected by the will of the people.

When demeaning conduct is glorified with such pompous fanfare then something must be seriously wrong because it means that we are totally incapable of differentiating what is right and wrong! And when the Deputy Prime Minister, the second topmost leader of the country, was associated with this diabolical conduct what hope is there for integrity and moral conduct.

When this despicable behaviour is upheld by the justice system, it is totally appalling and absolutely disgusting!

Our courts have inexplicably defended the right of renegade representatives – at the expense of thousands of voters – on the premise of upholding the renegades’ right of association. This is ridiculous. This so-called right of association was never in jeopardy. The right to associate was never the issue. That freedom was never denied. The renegades were free to defect.

The courts strangely and jealously, in a convoluted manner, have ruled that if renegade representatives were to give up their elected positions, it would constitute an infringement of their right. The courts seem so concerned with the turncoats’ right while completely ignoring the rights of thousands of voters whose electoral decision was betrayed and nullified by the unprincipled behaviour of these renegade representatives.

Common sense would dictate that the courts should have decided in favour of the voters to uphold the democratic process – but the courts instead shamefully and willfully chose to sacrifice the rights of thousands of voters. It was so obvious that the freedom of association was not interfered with. Renegades would not lose their membership in their new-found parties if they were to resign from their elected positions.

They say justice is blind in that it does not take into consideration the status of individuals or their position in society but in these cases, the judgments were blind justice in that they failed to see reason and overlooked what was very obvious.

P Ramakrishnan, the immediate past president of Aliran, now serves on the Aliran executive committee.