PETALING JAYA: The move by Umno to take legal action against lawmakers who have left the party has received the full backing from former president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
However, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is the party’s council of advisers’ chairman, has cast doubt whether the action will bear any meaningful result.
Najib said Umno was morally obligated to act against those who resigned from the party.
“In terms of moral principles, we see that something must be done, as they were elected and won on an Umno-Barisan Nasional ticket.
“When contesting (in the elections), they were given aid (allocation) and support until they succeeded in becoming elected representatives,” he told reporters at the Umno annual general assembly.
Najib was commenting on Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s announcement that legal letters have been issued to its former lawmakers who quit the party to demand that they pay back the necessary costs.
He added that they should also vacate their respective seats.
After the May 9 general election, five Umno MPs have left the party citing various reasons.
They are Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed (Jeli), Datuk Seri Anifah Aman (Kimanis), Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin (Masjid Tanah), Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal (Bukit Gantang) and Datuk Noor Azmi Ghazali (Bagan Serai).
Besides them, three Umno state assemblymen in Johor – Rasman Ithnain (Sedili), Rosleli Jahari (Johor Lama) and Alawiyah Talib (Endau) – have also left the party.
Najib, however, cautioned that Umno must still adhere to the rule of law in punishing those who abandoned the party.
“There are morals in politics, but whether we can force them to stay or not, we must look at the legal aspect of it,” he said.
Tengku Razaleigh said Dr Ahmad Zahid could face an uphill task in carrying out the plan to sue defectors.
“I’m unsure if we can do this from a legal standpoint.
“Penang and Sabah have tried this, but it was not easy, as it not only deals with legally committing someone who has been elected by the people, but also the rights of an individual, as they offered their services to the people and not the party.
“The party may have selected that person (to contest), but the support received is not just from the party, but also the voters who may not all be party members or supporters,” he said.
Tengku Razaleigh believed that carrying on with the plan for legal action could see the party mired in deeper trouble, as it touched on individual and voter rights.
Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the action would not be impossible to carry out, as the decision by the court could swing in either direction.
“We cannot say it is impossible, as the courts can decide in any way,” he said.
“But at least if we do this, it will become a hindrance (to others planning to leave).
“At least we are taking some action.”
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