You’re wrong on party-hopping, MP tells Dr M

(FMT) – An MP has described the prime minister’s statement that party-hopping is fine as long as it is done for good reasons as “regrettable”.

Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh said party-hopping encourages a morally despicable act which should not be condoned.

“No doubt, there have been several court rulings declaring that party-hopping is not illegal as politicians have a constitutional freedom to associate with any party they wish.

“But it must always be remembered that all elected representatives are elected by the people, mostly on account of the party they stand for and not as individuals,” Ramkarpal said.

At a question-and-answer session on the sidelines of the Lawasia conference here yesterday, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said party-hopping among members of political parties should be allowed if it was done for good reasons.

He said a law strictly against party-hopping would not promote a healthy government as dissenters of a particular party would have no choice but to remain with the party.

In a statement today, Ramkarpal said that if an elected representative became disillusioned with a party, “the morally right thing to do is to resign and explain the position to the people in a by-election”.

“Ultimately, it is for the people to decide if that particular representative deserves to be re-elected.”

He said there had been numerous instances of party-hopping soon after the last general election.

Such instances could not have been due to those representatives suddenly becoming disgruntled with their parties as they had no qualms supporting and promoting the same parties just before GE14.

“The reality of the position is that party-hopping in this country occurs due to political expediency and has nothing to do with these party-hoppers’ disillusionment with the direction of their former parties.

“Instead of encouraging party-hopping, the government should have the political will to introduce the necessary amendments to the Constitution to outlaw the same and introduce specific anti-defection legislation as a result.”

Ramkarpal noted that although some states had introduced anti-hopping laws, such as Penang in 2012, such a state law would be subject to the Federal Constitution and was unconstitutional.

“Party-hopping is as unprincipled as it can get and every effort should be taken to discourage such a practice in the name of good governance,” he said.