KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional is drafting a set of rules to prevent its elected representatives from crossing over to another party within the coalition, said its secretary-general Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat.
The move to prevent party-hopping was to strengthen the coalition and end internal feuding among component members, he said.
He said the set of rules include “punishment” to be meted out against any party that accepted a defecting representative.
“Behave or you can be expelled,” he said, warning that Barisan had expelled coalition members before such as Usno in the 1980s for breaching discipline.
“The rule is set. No crossovers and no component parties can accept them,” he said.
Mohamed said he had been asked to draft “a set of etiquettes” for the Barisan component parties.
“I am in the midst of doing it, in consultation with other members,” he said after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad opened the 32nd Gerakan national delegates conference at Menara PGRM here yesterday.
He pointed out that the rules were accepted at a Barisan supreme council meeting in January but he was now putting them in writing.
At the January meeting, he said, the council discussed at length acts “which could undermine the stability of the coalition.”
The acts deemed by the council as having “a destabilising effect” were party-hopping and the episode where Datuk Keramat assemblyman Lim Boo Chang and Jawi assemblyman Tan Cheng Liang abstained from voting on the Penang Outer Ring Road project at the Penang assembly last year.
Lim defected from Gerakan to join the MCA with Bayan Lepas assemblyman Lim Chien Aun after the 1999 general election.
Mohamed said party-hopping would be disruptive to Barisan.
“The rule in Barisan is 'do not undermine and do not weaken another party within the coalition',” he added.
He said there would be no end to the problem of crossovers, particularly in Sabah, if nothing was done.
He noted that the election rules in the country were silent on party-hopping but Barisan component members who had accepted the “regulation” must honour it.
Gerakan president Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik said he agreed with the no-hopping rules, saying they could prevent future friction.
There had been “an unwritten understanding” to discourage party-hopping but if it was written down, it would have to be implemented, he said.
Previously, the excuse to accept Barisan representatives into another component party was to prevent them from joining the opposition, he said.
However, this was a lame excuse as Barisan was now strong enough to discipline its members, he added.
In Kota Kinabalu, RUBEN SARIO reports that Sabah Barisan leaders welcomed the anti-hopping rules, saying that they were timely with state elections due next April.
While some of the leaders initially appeared to be taken aback by Mohamed’s announcement, they said the rules would help strengthen the coalition, which has seen a number of its assemblymen switching parties.
One of the most recent case was when five assemblymen quit Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) to rejoin Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) after its readmission into the Barisan last January. They had won their seats under the PBS ticket in the 1999 polls but quit to join PBRS.
Sabah Barisan secretary Datuk Karim Bujang said parties were weakened when key members like their assemblymen quit to join another party.
He said that when crossing over to another party, there was also a tendency among politicians to “wash dirty linen in public in pursuit of their political ambitions.”
“These sort of things don’t help anyone,” Karim said.
PBS vice-president Yunof Marinking said the party had never encouraged party-hopping.
Party officials have explained that in the case of the five assemblymen, they were considered to be “coming home” and not switching parties.
Yunof said rifts could occur among Barisan components if party-hopping was allowed to continue.