In lieu of an anti-hopping law, the government will reportedly table constitutional amendments that would regulate freedom of association in regard to party membership on Monday.
This is after plans to table an anti-hopping law hit a snag in the cabinet, causing it to be deferred.
After disagreements on the anti-hopping law, the government had informed opposition lawmakers that a bill to amend the Federal Constitution would be tabled to allow for an anti-hopping law to be enacted in the future.
However, the new bill has raised concerns.
According to a copy of the bill posted by Subang MP Wong Chen, the bill would amend Article 10 of the constitution — which enshrines freedom of speech, assembly, and association.
It would insert a sub-clause that allows party membership of MPs and assemblypersons to be restricted by federal law.
The wording of the sub-clause reads: “(3A) Notwithstanding paragraph (c) of Clause (2) and Clause (3), restrictions on the right to form associations conferred by paragraph (c) of Clause (1) relating to membership in a political party of members of the House of Representatives and members of the State Legislative Assembly may also be imposed by federal law.”
The contents of the bill were also revealed by PAS Secretary-General Hassan in a statement tonight.
Wong said the bill’s wording was too wide and needed to be narrowed down.
“Essentially, it empowers federal laws to supersede the Federal Constitution on matters related to ‘membership in a political party of MPs and assemblypersons’.
“This needs to be tightened and narrowed to the context of anti-hopping only,” he said.
Wong’s coalition, Pakatan Harapan, had earlier today said it would support the government’s plans to table a constitutional amendment first if an anti-hopping law would be expedited.
Lawyer New Sin Yew tweeted that the bill was very dangerous and open to abuse, as elected representatives will lose their freedom of association in terms of party membership.
“It does not even stop party hopping and it allows the government to abuse its power to control other political parties.
“For example, hypothetically a law can be passed to expel MPs from their political party for being fined RM1,000,” New said.
Another example of how the constitutional amendment could be abused, he said, was a law that caused MPs who have been arrested on national security grounds — such as in Ops Lalang — or charged in court, to lose their party membership.
Further, New argued that because the bill does not amend Article 48 — which sets out conditions for an MP to lose their seat – any subsequent anti-hopping law passed would be unconstitutional.
However, Takiyuddin — who is also energy and natural resources minister — had a more positive response to the bill.
In his statement tonight, he said PAS would give their full support for the bill.
He added that such a constitutional amendment was required to enable an anti-hopping act to take effect, based on the outcome of previous court cases.
He also said that the cabinet agreed that an anti-hopping bill required a specific act with proper definitions that would avoid confusion, abuse of power, and likelihood of bias.
Under the torpedoed plans for the anti-hopping bill, a by-election would have reportedly been triggered if an MP quits or is sacked from their party, joins a new party, or if an independent MP joins a party.