Four Penang reps may lose seats over changing party allegiances

GEORGE TOWN: The state assembly on Monday is set to be fiery as four assemblymen, for the first time in Malaysian history, may have to leave their seats for switching political loyalty.

State assembly Speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang confirmed the state government’s motion to declare the seats vacant after the assemblymen broke Penang’s anti-hopping law.

The seats are Bertam and Teluk Bahang, which are held by Khaliq Mehtab Mohd Ishaq and Zolkifly Md Lazim from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

They recently accepted posts in federal agencies, leading the Pakatan Harapan state government to strip them of privileges and allocations as government backbenchers.

Seberang Jaya assemblyman Dr Afif Bahardin was suspended by PKR, then quit the party and joined Bersatu while Sungai Acheh representative Zulkifli Ibrahim, who was sacked by PKR, last month announced his plan to be an independent supporting Perikatan Nasional.

In 2012, an amendment to the State Constitution required assemblymen to leave their seats when “having been elected as a candidate of a political party, he resigns or is expelled from or ceases for any reason to be a member of that party”.

But there are also views that this legal provision is in breach of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of association.

Law said the state assembly, which will sit until Oct 19, would also debate other matters such as job opportunities, tourism recovery, the Penang Transport Master Plan and the Penang South Reclamation.

He said the meet would be held at Dewan Sri Pinang as the restoration works at the State Assembly building in Light Street were still ongoing.

“There will be strict rules on physical distancing and adherence to the standard operating procedure. The number of visitors, including media practitioners, will be restricted.

“I will assess the state’s Covid-19 situation in the next few days before sending out invitation to visitors and the press,” he said.

Law said the restoration, which started in November 2018, was set to finish in March but the Public Works Department (JKR) asked for an extension due to the MCO.

“We expect JKR to hand over the building by the middle or end of this month,” he said.
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