PN rejected tighter anti-party hopping rules, now bearing consequences: Hanipa Maidin

(Scoop) – Perikatan Nasional (PN) must remember that it was their leaders who disagreed with proposals to have elected lawmakers vacate their seats when they go against their parties, including switching their support without leaving the party, according to lawyer and former Sepang MP Mohamed Hanipa Maidin.

Hanipa today voiced his support for a statement Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail made yesterday, that the disagreement of PN leaders Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin and Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan towards these proposals when the bill for the anti-party hopping law was being drafted led to the current loopholes.

As a result, PN has seen four of its MPs switch their allegiances to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim recently without leaving the party, thus not losing their seats.

“Assuming PN is still disputing this fact, it may duly refer to the official parliamentary report of the meeting as all the meetings were duly and officially recorded,” Hanipa said in a Facebook post today, in which he shared an article reporting Saifuddin’s comments.

He said he, representing Amanah, as well as Gobind Singh Deo of DAP, had been part of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) delegation in the technical committee tasked with drafting the anti-party hopping bill last year.

The four Bersatu MPs – (from left to right) Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman (Labuan), Datuk Iskandar Dzulkarnain Abdul Khalid (Kuala Kangsar), Mohd Azizi Abu Naim (Gua Musang), and Zahari Kechik (Jeli) – switching sides takes advantage of a loophole that was not addressed in the Anti-Party Hopping Act. 

“The technical committee working on the draft anti-party hopping was established by the then Prime Minster, (Datuk Seri) Ismail Sabri (Yaakob) who publicly proclaimed all the names of the member of (the) a committee in Parliament.

“The technical committee was non-partisan in nature as it was represented by MPs from different political parties (both) in the government (and) in the opposition,” Hanipa added.

Yesterday, Saifuddin, who is PH secretary-general and had also been part of the technical committee, said PH had wanted the anti-party hopping law to penalise MPs who went against their party whip’s decision in the Dewan Rakyat on matters such as a budget vote, motions of confidence and on any bill that impacted the government’s standing.

“(They) would be considered as having lost their seats and a by-election would be held,” Saifuddin said.

However, he added that PN’s Hamzah, who is the coalition’s secretary-general, and Takiyuddin, the PAS secretary-general, had objected to this. Ultimately, the bill reflected only what all in the committee were able to agree on.

“In the end, how does an MP lose their seat? By joining another party, by becoming an independent MP. By declaring support for the prime minister? They won’t lose their seat. That’s it,” Saifuddin said.

Questions about loopholes in the Anti-Party Hopping Act have arisen after four PN lawmakers – Kuala Kangsar MP Datuk Iskandar Dzulkarnain Abdul Khalid, Labuan MP Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman, Gua Musang MP Mohd Azizi Abu Naim, and Jeli MP Zahari Kechik – recently declared support for Anwar.

They remain as MPs while facing disciplinary action from their party, Bersatu, including suspensions.

It has also led to Bersatu president and PN chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin urging a review of the Anti-Party Hopping Act, which only deems a seat vacant if the lawmakers quit their party. It does not address a lawmaker’s change of allegiance without leaving their party.

Earlier today, deputy finance minister I and Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan conceded weaknesses in the Act and said it needed a review in light of recent developments.