As Umno awaits RoS ruling, party polls deadline looms

Umno has six months to hold its election unless the Registrar of Societies (RoS) allows the party to amend its constitution.

(NST) – In June last year, Umno was allowed to postpone its polls for 18 months until Dec 29 this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. On May 15, an extraordinary general meeting of Umno’s 2,586 delegates from 192 division unanimously passed a resolution to amend the party’s constitution. The RoS must approve these amendments.

If Umno’s bid to amend its constitution to allow internal polls to be held after the next general election is approved, the current line-up of leaders would remain.

Padang Rengas member of parliament Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said RoS’ recent rejection of Sabah-based Warisan’s bid to postpone its polls, indicated the same fate might befall Umno.

“By law, the three-year term of the supreme council ended in June last year, which means the polls should’ve been held last year.

“But Umno was given 18 months and the expiry date is this December. Now, we’re asking for a further postponement. If Warisan’s application was rejected, I see no reason why Umno would be an exception,” he told the New Straits Times.

Nazri, who is a former law minister, said since the current lineup was akin to a “caretaker” leadership, the Umno supreme council had no power to make substantive decisions, such as amending the party’s constitution.

“It’s because their term (as supreme council members) has ended. But okay, let’s assume they have the power. Then it means the decision (to postpone the polls) is meant for the future line-up and not applicable to the current line-up.”

Constitutional law expert Professor Dr Nik Ahmad Kamal Nik Mahmod said since Umno’s application to delay its polls was approved by the RoS, the party would probably get good news again.

However, he concurred with Nazri’s view that Umno was now led by a caretaker leadership.

He said since there was no mention in the Umno constitution on the caretaker leaders’ powers to amend it, the RoS could interpret it either way.

“There is nothing in the (Umno) constitution that says the caretakers can or cannot move an amendment to its constitution, which means there is a vacuum and can be interpreted both ways.

“Therefore, it is up to the RoS on how it wants to interpret it. It is possible for the RoS to interpret it as the amendment submitted would only be applicable for the next line-up, which in this case the polls (must be held by December). If the amendment is implemented immediately, then it could apply to the present (leadership), so there isn’t a need (for a party election this year).

“This, in a way, is like an attempt to (go) around the extension. If the RoS takes this into account, we will have to see whether the amendments submitted were in line with the law,” Nik Ahmad said.

Nazri, on the other hand, expressed worry over the possibility of Umno being dissolved if it was adamant on waiting for a decision from the RoS that was not certain to be favourable to it.

Nazri said considering the RoS rules, Umno might face dissolution if it failed to hold its election before the Dec 29 deadline.

“I believe they (supreme council members) were wrongly advised by their lawyers, thinking they can get away with it.

“The new amendments are for the future leadership line-up and this is like cheating, just (an excuse) to get an extension for the president to hold on to his position,” he said referring to Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is facing multiple corruption charges.

The RoS has yet to decide on Umno’s application to amend its constitution, but party secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan was confident that the party would get a favourable decision.