Anti-hopping law may have come into play in suspensions

Khairy (left) and Noh (center) were sacked from Umno, whereas Hishammuddin was suspended for six years.

PETALING JAYA: While sources within Umno have said that it is unclear whether the anti-hopping law may have any bearing on Umno’s decision to merely suspend elected representatives instead of giving them the boot, analysts have other thoughts.

Two former MPs, Khairy Jamaluddin and Tan Sri Noh Omar, were sacked while Sembrong MP Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was suspended from the party.

Party sources said detailed reasons for the sacking and suspension were not given during the supreme council meeting on Friday.

“It is not known whether it had anything to do with the anti-hopping law,” added the source.

Analysts believe that the suspensions may have been a strategic decision to keep the seats within Barisan Nasional.

According to political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, elected representatives such as Hisham- muddin were suspended instead of being sacked because Umno had to maintain their numbers in Parliament.

“Suspended leaders cannot leave the party and will still keep their positions as it would be in breach of the anti-hopping law.

“However, if they are sacked, they get to keep their position as an elected representative and take it with them if they chose to join another party,” said Sivamurugan.

Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer Dr Azmil Mohd Tayeb said if the MPs were sacked instead of suspended, they will be able to join other parties.

“(Umno president) Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is keeping those seats within Umno while making himself the patron, instead of those suspended MPs.

“Sabah Umno leaders are part of the unity government and were spared from the purging,” he said.

Academician Prof Datuk Dr Ramlah Adam reckoned that suspending Hishammuddin was a strategy to warn him but still maintain him within the fold due to his position as an elected representative.

“Umno cannot afford to lose any of their 26 seats in Parliament. The suspension also gives Hishammuddin a chance to appeal and be forgiven for his alleged misdeeds.

“Maybe his suspension will be revoked by the party disciplinary board if he appeals,” said Ramlah.

Independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said it is obvious that Umno would like to keep the seats as status quo, and keeping critics out of Umno is a first step for Ahmad Zahid to quell criticism against his leadership.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun said the anti-hopping law stipulates that MPs fired by their party will get to keep their seats.

“Therefore, the decision to not sack MPs may have been made to ensure that Umno does not run afoul of the anti-hopping law.

“It also ensures that it does not lose seats while those offending MPs ‘benefit’ from being able to keep their seats if they are fired from the party.”

According to the anti-party hopping law, which was passed in Parliament on July 28, MPs who defect from the party they represented as election candidates, or those who became independents, would have to vacate their seats.

However, MPs sacked by their party would not lose their seats and those who voted against their party’s wishes in Parliament would not be affected.

Besides Hishammuddin, former Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan, former youth exco member Datuk Dr Fathul Bari Mat Jahya, former Johor state exco member and Tebrau Umno division chief Datuk Maulizan Bujang and former Jempol MP Datuk Seri Mohd Salim Mohd Shariff were also suspended for six years.

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