KOTA KINABALU: The pre-signed undated resignation letter of Sebatik assemblyman Hassan Amir Gani (pic) would most likely be ruled invalid before the court of law, says senior lawyer Robert Chin.
This means Hassan, who defected from Parti Warisan Sabah to support the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) government on Feb 25, is likely to remain an assemblyman until the next election.
Chin said there are established laws in the country that allow state assemblymen or MPs to defect without losing their seats.
For example, he said, the 1992 case of Dewan Undangan Negeri Kelantan versus Nordin Salleh showed that an MP or assemblyman could not be penalised by having his seat forfeited if he crossed over to another party.
Chin said the court then had also ruled that it went against Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution, which guaranteed freedom
The Federal Court had also ruled in 1982 in the case of the Sarawak United People’s Party member Datuk Ong Kee Hui versus the then party president Sinyium anak Mutit, that the arrangement of submitting an undated resignation letter to the Speaker was contrary to public policy, and therefore void.
“So here, we see that when it comes to Parliament and the state legislative assemblies, the Courts say ‘no’, ” he said.
However, for non-political party related cases, the proceedings and ruling varies on a case-by-case basis, Chin added.
Another lawyer, Yong Yit Jee, who is also a Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) council member, said the pre-signed resignation letter from Hassan is invalid and unenforceable as it violates the freedom of association.
He said as it stands, under Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution, state assemblymen are allowed to defect without vacating their seats.
An assemblyman is free to associate or dissociate himself with anyone or party, and only Parliament may impose restrictions on the freedom of association, especially on political parties, and that too only on specific grounds provided for under the Constitution, he said.
“Thus, it is my view that it is irrelevant whether or not Hassan voluntarily pre-signed the letter of resignation, ” Yong said, adding that political parties cannot bind an assemblyman to a promise of resigning and vacating the state seat.
He said the Speaker and the state assembly should just disregard the letter, and even if the letter is accepted by the Speaker, Hassan can bring the matter to court and challenge the decision.
Nonetheless, Yong feels that to promote political and economic stability, both the federal and state governments need to implement an anti-hopping law to prevent elected representatives from party hopping.
He also suggested that Malaysians consider voting for the candidate, rather than along party lines, by choosing someone who would sincerely serve the public.