GEORGE TOWN: While “political frogs” are leaping around the country, there seems little chance of that happening at the Penang state assembly because of the state’s anti-hopping law of 2012.
Enacted to hinder crossovers of the then Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen after the 2013 general election, the law now works to prevent the assembly’s three opposition members – two from Umno and one from PAS – from leaving their parties and continue to remain in office.
Penang’s state assembly is the only one in the country with an anti-hopping law.
Article 14(A)(1) of the Constitution of the State of Penang (Amendment) Enactment 2012 states that a member of the assembly shall vacate his seat if:
(a) Having been elected as a candidate of a political party, he resigns or is expelled from or ceases for any reasons whatsoever to be a member of that party or
(b) Having been elected as an independent but later joins a political party.
Actual enforcement of this law, however, will be difficult because even former DAP chairman, the late Karpal Singh, conceded in 2012 that it went against the right to freedom of association guaranteed in the Federal Constitution.
His son, Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh, said yesterday that the Federal Constitution, as the supreme law, would have to be amended for any anti-hopping law to work.
Veteran DAP assemblyman Phee Boon Poh said the law was not enacted as a deterrent to stop party-hopping but rather as an instrument of principle.
“An assemblyman elected under a party ticket should remain in a party when the going gets tough and have respect for voters,” said Phee.
He said if assemblymen became disenchanted with their parties, “they should resign and return their seats to the people or be independent assemblymen and look at legislative matters on an issue-to-issue basis instead of being politically stubborn.
“When you hop, you lose integrity”.
However, there does not seem to be any risk of Penang’s opposition members throwing in the towel.
State opposition leader and Umno assemblyman Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor said his party need not fear as he and Permatang Berangan assemblyman Nor Hafizah Othman would stay put.
“I am aware of the anti-hopping law but I will remain and will not betray the trust of the people,” said Muhammad Yusoff.