Dissecting the political frog culture reveals innards strewn with broken promises, dashed hopes... and threats to businesses.
Political frogs are so toxic that a popular supermarket chain in Sabah, CKS (Chua Kah Seng), had to announce that it’s not related to Inanam assemblyman Kenny Chua of PKR.
“In regards to the recent posting in social media, the management would like to confirm that the business has no relations and is not affiliated nor associated with the former assemblyman. We hope this statement clarifies all doubts, ” it posted on Facebook.
On Wednesday (July 29), Chua was revealed as one of 13 assemblymen who ditched their parties to support Perikatan Nasional.
With the Parti Warisan Sabah, Upko, PKR and DAP assemblymen switching sides, Perikatan accumulated 33 assemblymen – enough to topple Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal’s 26-month government.
The Warisan president was forced to seek the consent of the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin to dissolve the state assembly.
The Yang di-Pertua Negeri consented and all the 65 assemblymen and nominated assemblymen are now jobless. The joke in Sabah is that they "mati katak" (a Malay proverb meaning die like frogs, or to die in vain).
In a statement on Monday, Chua, who lost his assistant finance minister job, explained why he defected. He said it was because he was loyal to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“It would go against my principle to be part of a state government that was led by Warisan because this party had openly declared its support for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, ” he said.
Chua’s statement gave credence to talk that he jumped to spite Shafie, who was competing with Anwar to be the ninth Prime Minister.
I asked political scientist Wong Chin Huat for his definition of a political frog.
“Those who change parties with an elected mandate – party frogs. Those with electoral mandate whose party changes coalition – coalition frog, ” Wong said.
Based on Wong’s definition, Chua is a party frog because he stood under the PKR ticket in GE14, and then jumped to Perikatan.
And it also describes some of Warisan’s top brass.
Semporna MP Shafie, who was suspended by Umno, quit the party to form Warisan in 2016. Warisan deputy president and Penampang MP Datuk Darell Leiking ditched PKR, and Warisan vice president and Luyang assemblyman Datuk Junz Wong dumped DAP.
The coalition frog definition suits Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam. He contested under the BN flag in GE14 and won the Kundasang state seat. His party, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), ditched Barisan in May 2018.
However, I find a coalition frog isn’t deceitful because the person didn’t jump out of their party. It’s their party which jumped out of the coalition.
This is certainly true of Upko – it left BN to form a government with Warisan and PH.
Wong agrees, saying permanent coalitions are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
“It is the norm to move from permanent coalitions to post-election coalitions. Instead of just slamming those who move faster than others, we should ask on what policy ground they changed coalition and how long their new allegiance will last, ” he said.
That said, it’s not fair to call Sabah the land of frogs.
There are frogs in other states, too. Johor, Melaka, Perak and Kedah fell this year because of frogs among the Pakatan assemblymen.
One of the most famous switches in Peninsular Malaysia was during the collapse of the Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak.
In January 2009, Bota assemblyman Datuk Nasarudin Hashim quit Umno to join PKR. However, two PKR assemblyman, Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang) and Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu (Changkat Jering), and DAP’s Hee Yit Foong (Jelapang) declared themselves independents. Nasarudin then leapt back to Umno.
Due to the calamitous proceedings, the PR government lost its majority in the Perak assembly.
As a Sabahan, I am pro anti-hopping laws. I’ve seen how the mandate of the people has been relinquished by hopping assemblymen.
In 1986, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan called for snap polls four months after five of its assemblymen quit the party. Through its nine-year governance of Sabah, PBS was repeatedly undermined by its departing assemblymen.
PBS enacted the anti-hopping law, but it was later declared ultra vires (beyond the legal power) to the Federal Constitution as it restrained one’s freedom of association.
PBS finally collapsed in 1994 when a few weeks into winning the state polls, its assemblymen ditched the party to be with Barisan, led by Umno.
Karma returned to bite Umno in the posterior 26 years later. The Barisan state government (ironically, including PBS), of which Umno is the backbone, collapsed two days after GE14. Two Upko and four Umno assemblymen jumped ship to support Shafie’s bid to be chief minister.
Shafie’s backdoor government fell the same way it was formed. So, what goes around certainly comes around.