4 Bersatu reps fail in bid to challenge Penang anti-hopping law

The Federal Court has rejected a bid by four Penang Bersatu assemblymen to commence a constitutional challenge on the state’s anti-hopping enactment.

(FMT) – Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat dismissed the leave application after hearing submissions from lawyers DP Naban, representing the four assemblymen, and Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who appeared for the state government.

The court made no order on costs.

Tengku Maimun said the Federal Court had in August decided that the state assembly was entitled to enact laws to determine the qualification of its members.

In that decision, the apex court upheld the validity of Article 14A of the Penang constitution, which it said was consistent with Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution.

It also said the Federal Constitution did not guarantee elected assemblymen any fundamental right to switch allegiances from one political party to another.

The four Bersatu assemblymen – Zulkifli Ibrahim (Sungai Acheh), Dr Afif Bahardin (Seberang Jaya), Khaliq Mehtab Mohd Ishaq (Bertam) and Zolkifly Lazim (Telok Bahang) – had previously filed a suit to challenge a motion introduced by the state assembly’s speaker during its meeting in October 2020, seeking to vacate their seats so that by-elections could be held.

They alleged that Penang’s 2012 anti-hopping law was wrongfully used against them.

They also denied that they had defected or changed their party allegiance.

Zulkifli and Afif were sacked from PKR in 2020 and later joined Bersatu, while Khaliq and Zolkifly are members of Bersatu.

The High Court then referred the case to the Federal Court to determine constitutional questions relating to Penang’s anti-hopping enactment.

One month after the Federal Court ruling in August, the four filed a fresh bid to challenge the enactment, claiming that the state assembly was not competent to pass the law.

Earlier today, Naban told the court the Penang assembly had no power to make such laws, and that it had acted in excess of its powers concerning the election of assembly members.

Malik, on the other hand, contended that the assembly had the power to enact the anti-hopping provision under the state constitution.

He said the four assemblymen were attempting to “perpetuate their stay as the state representatives” by filing this action.