KOTA KINABALU: The four Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) MPs will not lose their seats under the anti-hopping law as they contested as "GRS direct members", opines lawyer Tengku Datuk Fuad Ahmad.
"They were GRS-direct members when they contested and as such they are not subject to the anti-party hopping law," said Fuad, who is a constitutional lawyer and also the state government's legal advisor.
He said their association with Bersatu ended in early October and the only political party they were with when filing their nomination for GE15 was GRS.
Fuad was weighing in on legal arguments that the four MPs would lose their Parliamentary seats under the anti-hopping law if they were part of the Sabah Bersatu exodus led by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor on Saturday (Dec 10).
Fuad said the four MPs – Minister in Prime Minister's Department Datuk Armizan Mohd Ali (Papar), Tourism, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan (Batu Sapi), Datuk Matbali Musah (Sipitang) and Datuk Jonathan Yassin (Ranau) – were not part of the exodus.
Fuad argued that there was no breach of the anti-party hopping law under Article 49A of the Federal Constitution as they contested as "GRS direct" members and not from Bersatu which they had already left.
Former law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar on Sunday (Dec 12) said that the four MPs would need to quit under the spirit of the anti-party hopping law.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear if the four MPs had officially quit Bersatu prior to GE15 or if it was at the time of Hajiji's announcement that they were quitting Sabah Bersatu en masse.
If it was the former, Bersatu might not be able to take action against them under the anti-party hopping law.
The four MPs followed GRS' stand to support the unity government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim even though Bersatu, led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, was against it.
In the event Bersatu decides to sack them, all four MPs will not lose their seats as they are not required to vacate their seat if they were sacked from their party, lawyers here have opined.
However, most lawyers agree that it would be a messy and complex legal challenge if it was taken to court as Sabah Bersatu and its national parent party had taken different political stands in the recently concluded general election.
Sabah Bersatu, as a GRS component party, decided to work with Sabah Barisan Nasional, which goes against Bersatu's stand at national level, where the party is in the Perikatan Nasional coalition.
Sabah Bersatu, through GRS, had a separate electoral pact with Sabah Barisan where they shared the 25 Sabah parliament seats to avoid contesting each other.
They said that national-level Perikatan was unhappy and even fielded Bersatu vice president Datuk Seri Ronald Kiandee to contest the Beluran seat against the Barisan-GRS seat deal.
"It is clear that there were differences between national-level Bersatu and Sabah Bersatu which was to suit local political needs," said a lawyer who declined to be named.