“Frogs can hop at any time.”
Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said delivered a no-holds-barred speech today when urging the government to expedite her Private Member’s Bill to penalise party-hopping MPs.
In sarcastic remarks that included a Malay poem criticising political defectors, the former de facto law minister and Deputy Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat said her Bill was urgent as “frogs can hop at any time”.
The term “frogs” has become a common reference for lawmakers inexplicably switching allegiances, often for personal or financial gain.
Since 2018, Umno has lost 15 MPs, while PKR has lost 13 MPs to Bersatu.
Azalina also reminded the elected representatives to not abuse the powers they enjoy courtesy of the people’s mandate, as it would be up to the voters to decide on whether to extend their political lifeline or otherwise.
“Therefore, I, on behalf of the ‘gang 44’. The gang that has no positions (in government), would like to impart some views, suggestions, and criticisms to the government, with the hope that this would be received with open heart and arms. Don’t just say yes with your mouth, but in your heart, it’s another thing.
“Firstly, I want to touch on the transformation of governance. The umbrella of the transformation of governance is surely the Anti-Party Hopping Act,” she said, reminding the Parliament of her proposed Bill on the matter and asking for the matter to be expedited.
“Not because of anything else, but if the frog wants to hop, it does not follow any stipulated time, Speaker. Day or night,” she said, before reciting the poem.
Azalina, a trained lawyer, said during debate on the royal address today that her proposed law was crucial to the principles of democracy.
She said the “risk is only one with the proposed law”, which was to create a more open mechanism that would empower voters to decide if an elected representative should be replaced in the event of a defection after the election.
Azalina explained that one must accept that defections were sometimes coerced, and that it should be up to the voters to decide if this must still be punished.
“So, I ask and plead with the minister, my brother, the new law minister, the MP for Santubong, to give a fast-track pathway for my Bill to be debated and taken over by the government as the basis to the Anti-Party Hopping and Sacking of Parliamentary Members Bill 2021, combined, to create a Parliament that is more credible and wholesome,” she added.
Earlier this month, Azalina said that she had submitted notice of her motion for a Private Member’s Bill to provide for recall elections in the event of elected lawmakers’ defections.
The Pengerang MP, in a statement posted on Facebook on September 2, said the notice was to comply with Parliament’s Standing Orders 49(1).
She also reiterated her intentions to form a Caucus on Parliamentary Reform and Multi-Party Democracy among MPs who are interested in doing so.
She added that her proposed Bill would also allow for checks and balances of the MPs by voters.
Powers of AG and PP must be separated
Meanwhile, Azalina also suggested that the government separate the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) from the public prosecutor’s role.
“The AGC and the public prosecutor should not be the same person. The public prosecutor cannot be appointed by the prime minister.
“He or she should be appointed by a separate body such as the Judicial Appointments Commission (which appoints judges) and have security of tenure (cannot be terminated),” Azalina said.
This is to allow the prosecutor to act freely and not be seen as an extension of the executive branch of government, she added.
She said that the AGC, which advises the prime minister and the government, can come from one of the ministers.
“If so, the AG can then answer on behalf of the government in Parliament instead of only sending written replies,” said Azalina.