BY DR NAVIN C NAIDU

Party hopping has become crucial today exacerbated by a insidious razor-thin temporary majority, perhaps, enjoyed by the PN government, and the thinness or thickness of that majority is wholly dependent on, if not controlled by, how Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution (FC) is explained, used, rationalised, justified and interpreted in a court of law should some party decide to take umbrage over the issue of freedom to form associations.

The grammar and syntax of “all citizens have the right to form associations” shines the spotlight on limitations and exceptions evident in Article 10(2)(a) FC where consequences detrimental to “public order and morality” becomes a veritable no-no to party hopping as it can be seen to be immoral to change allegiances from one political party membership to another causing disquiet with public order culminating, unexpectedly, with a regime change on February 28 when the seventh prime minister resigned.

Morality in Article 10(2)(c) FC brings clarity to party hopping far removed from freedom to form associations according to some apologists, advocates and adherents of this practice.

Article 10(2)(b) FC seemingly fumes at the thought that the freedom to form associations can affect the “interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof or public order.”

The time is ripe today for Parliament to think about national unity, security and political morality to stop this party hopping habit by passing unequivocal legislation that spells out the freedom of political association thus:

“The freedom to form political associations by becoming representatives of a particular political party in the legislatures of the Federation shall not be abridged except in the event such legislators decide to join another political party, or whose party membership has been terminated which will require a mandatory resignation from the legislature in order to join another political party.” And if this new legislation is what the rakyat expect to be passed to respect their vote, Article 10(1)(c) must be repealed with all deliberate speed due to the oddities, ambiguities and
perplexities of its inherent language.

It will be reprehensible to learn, discover or know that a party-hopper did leave the party that put him or her in the legislature for pecuniary gains as was evident during the 2009 Perak constitutional crisis when three assemblypersons defected allegedly enticed by huge offers of financial security.

If a party representative feels that his or her party’s principles or political manifestos are without pith and substance, or no longer relevant, then he or she has every right to resign the legislative seat, and go back to the rakyat for their votes as a candidate under another political banner.

That resonates well with morality and the security of the Federation as mandated in Article 10(2)(b) and 10(2)(c) FC.

Ambrose Bierce defined, and condemned, politics as “a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” This reverberates as the stark naked truth when we witness the charges leveled at the usurpers of the 1MDB funds.

If the charges bear out, then it will be admissible to believe that money politics dictate party allegiances and alliances with no attachment to loyalty or nexus to morality.

The leaders of government must always remember and never forget for an instance that the resources of this country belong to the people, and that government is merely guardians and custodians taking instructions from the people after they win elections.

The people can witness genuine people-centric governance when our leaders understand this truism and put it into practice.

That, in my belief system, is the way to win an election and prove your mettle and worth as a party-hopper hoping for the best for your constituency, community and nation.

That genre of political maturity is not impossible or difficult to hone and develop for the betterment, wellbeing and advancement of the people, especially those residing in the interior regions of Sarawak who have been without basic necessities since Sarawak entered the Federation of Malaysia some 56 years ago.

The irritating aspect of this situation is that Sarawak’s petroleum revenues are more than sufficient to meet the needs of every man, woman and child in the 12 Divisions of Sarawak.

That should be the focus of the party-hopper.

What other reason should you muster to enter altruistic politics?

Ambrose Bierce’s vigilance: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. The whole aim of practical  politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence
clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

As an American would say, “damned if you did, and damned if you didn’t.”

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.