Politics and Policy: Legal route to challenge ‘sacking’ may be Mahathir’s best option

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on June 1, 2020 - June 07, 2020.

Photo by Suhaimi Yusuf/The Edge

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TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the four Bersatu leaders aligned to him are staying firm in Bersatu, making an already difficult situation more difficult for party president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Bersatu quintet have rejected the termination letters issued to them by the party, signed by organising secretary Suhaimi Yahya, claiming that they went against the law and their right to justice.

And Suhaimi himself has been “sacked” — his termination letter issued by Datuk Marzuki Yahya, whom Mahathir still regards as the party secretary-general. Muhyiddin has his own secretary-general in Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin, who is also home minister.

Political observers and analysts are rather baffled as to why the termination letters to Mahathir and Co were issued by the organising secretary and not Hamzah.

The whole termination issue is equally baffling, at least in terms of the terminology used. In the first place, there are divergent views about whether it should be termed as a “sacking”. The leaders were sacked for allegedly not supporting the Perikatan Nasional government during the May 18 parliamentary sitting, based on where they were seated.

Then party supreme council member Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who is pro-Muhyiddin, argued that the five were not sacked but rather had their memberships automatically nullified because of where they had sat in parliament. He later said Mahathir and the other four MPs left the party on their own accord by choosing where they sat in parliament.

Whatever it is, Bersatu sees Mahathir, his son Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, Dr Maszlee Malek and Datuk Wira Amiruddin Hamzah as being no more in the party.

And the five, Mahathir in particular, are fighting back. But was there any doubt about that? Moments after news of their termination broke, the five issued a fiery media statement disputing the sacking and attacking Muhyiddin.

“It would be foolish to think Mahathir had not expected to be sacked. Equally foolish to think he will not strike back. How is the million-dollar question,” says a political observer.

Ilham Centre CEO Azlan Zainal says one way is that Mahathir will take the issue to court. Observers and analysts expect that to be one route the former prime minister will take. That will be a long-drawn-out battle.

“By sacking the five, Muhyiddin is clearly shutting all doors for Mahathir and Mukhriz ahead of party elections,” says the observer. The Bersatu election was scheduled for June but has been postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The stakes are high, as Muhyiddin was to have been challenged by Mukhriz for the presidency. Mahathir was reported to have been returned as chairman unopposed and this was announced by the party. With the Registrar of Societies saying that he is no more the chairman, however, that is now in question.

“Questions remain as to whether Muhyiddin and his backers have the power to sack these leaders in the manner in which it was done. Mahathir has challenged the RoS decision on his chairmanship and may even take RoS and Bersatu to court,” says the observer.

Incidentally, on the day Bersatu issued the termination letters to Team Mahathir, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan issued a media statement to announce that the government was formulating a law on measures to ease the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak. The bill will be tabled in parliament in July and “we hope it will be passed”, said Takiyuddin.

That could very well be the test of strength for the Muhyiddin administration, as constitutional experts have said that a no-confidence motion can come in many forms. Failure to get any bill tabled by the government passed — in this case, the bill to counter the effects of Covid-19 on the economy — would mean the Perikatan Nasional government would be under pressure to resign, although it is not a constitutional requirement.

 

Mohsin Abdullah is a contributing editor at The Edge. He has covered politics for more than four decades.

 

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