Four Penang assemblymen to challenge state constitution

GEORGE TOWN: The four assemblymen who defected from the Pakatan Harapan government in 2020 will mount a legal challenge, saying that Penang's anti-party hopping law has been wrongfully used against them.

All four are challenging Penang's anti-party hopping law enacted in 2012 despite a Federal Court ruling on Wednesday (Aug 3) that the law was constitutional.

The four are Zulkifli Ibrahim (Sungai Acheh), Afif Bahardin (Seberang Jaya), Khaliq Mehtab Mohd Ishaq (Bertam) and Zolkifly Md Lazim (Telok Bahang).

"We have been informed of the decision by the Federal Court declaring that Article 14A of the Penang Constitution does not infringe the right of freedom of association enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution,” they said.

"In doing so, the Federal Court changed the law and reversed a 30-year old precedent.We respect the decision of the Federal Court but we disagree with it,” all four added.

They said in a statement on Thursday (Aug 4) that they are challenging Article 14A of the Penang Constitution as they believe that it is open to abuse in its current form.

"Two of us were elected on the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) ticket and we remain with them while two of us were expelled from our former party for making statements which were perceived as being critical of the party leadership," they said.

Zulkifli and Afif were sacked from PKR in 2020 while Khaliq Mehtab and Zolkifly are members of Bersatu.

They added that Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow has expressed the state government's intent to bring the state's constitution in line with the proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution.

"If the Penang government is genuine in its claim and in the spirit of bipartisanship, we believe that the motions to disqualify us should be withdrawn,” said the four.

They said that they would not be subject to disqualifications under the proposed amendments.

"As we understand it, the decision of the Federal Court is premised on narrow grounds," the four added.

The four added that they have instructed their lawyers to review the matter to enable them to discharge their duties as lawfully elected assemblymen.

"We do not believe that political parties should be able to have absolute control to dictate the decisions of assemblymen,” they said.

"As elected representatives, we represent all the people of our constituency whether they voted for our party or not and we will continue to make decisions based on what we feel is in their best interests and needs,” added the four.

The issue of the constitutionality of Article 14(A) was brought before the Federal Court following the action of the four to leave the Pakatan Harapan coalition in 2020.

Their defection led to the Penang state assembly speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang tabling a motion for them to vacate their seats and for by-elections to be held, as they had violated Article 14(A) of the state constitution.

According to Article 14(A) of the Penang State Constitution, a state assemblyman must vacate his seat if he resigns, is stripped of his membership, ceases to be a politician or is chosen as a candidate by another political party.

Chow said the state exco would discuss the status of the four on Friday (Aug 5).

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