The Kuala Lumpur High Court has ordered Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin to make a decision within 14 days from today on Parti Pejuang Tanah Air’s (Pejuang) appeal to be registered as a political party.
Judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid this morning allowed Pejuang’s judicial review application to compel the minister to decide on the fledgling group’s appeal against the Registrar of Societies’ (ROS) refusal to register it.
During online proceedings conducted via Zoom, the judge ruled that the five and a half months that elapsed since Pejuang wrote its appeal to the minister in January, is beyond what is a reasonable duration for the minister to decide.
On April 1, the court granted leave to Pejuang to proceed with the judicial review to compel the minister to make a decision on the group’s appeal against the ROS decision on Jan 6 to decline to register it as a political party.
Initially set for decision on June 23, the verdict was postponed to today.
Despite the ongoing legal proceedings, Pejuang reportedly claimed it received a warning from the ROS on May 10 to cease all membership activities and use of its party logo.
On Dec 10 last year, Pejuang had gone to court to challenge the ROS’ delay in making a decision over the group’s application to be registered as a political party.
The group withdrew that legal action following the ROS announcing its decision on Jan 6 to reject Pejuang’s registration application.
However, on March 1, it went to court for the second time, following the minister allegedly not responding to Pejuang’s appeal for registration.
Minister breached statutory duty
During proceedings today, Kamal said the minister’s delay of five and a half months to make any decision on Pejuang’s appeal amounted to a breach of his statutory duty under Section 18 of the Societies Act 1966.
The judge ruled that the minister should have decided within a reasonable time.
Kamal disagreed with the respondents’ (minister and ROS) arguments that the delay in dealing with Pejuang’s appeal was because the minister had to go through 102 pending appeals.
“To me, it is unclear how many of the 102 appeals have to do with the issue of registration of political parties or whether they are of a higher degree of importance that requires the first respondent (minister) to decide,” he said.
The judge pointed out that despite the minister being saddled with other duties and responsibilities as a home minister, he could have still made a decision on Pejuang’s appeal within a reasonable time, as he should have been assisted by the ROS to do so.
The ROS is under the purview of the Home Ministry.
Kamal also noted that, unlike a commission where its decision-making requires a longer period of time due to many members needing to contribute views on issues, only the home minister alone decides whether to allow or reject Pejuang’s appeal for registration.
“It is clear that the first respondent (minister) is the only person who will make the decision.
“No other person involved in making the decision, (unlike a commission) that involves other persons (commission members) who need to submit their views and opinions to the commission.
“Here, it is only the duty of the first respondent to make a decision (on Pejuang’s appeal for registration). The decision-making process does not require a long period of time, unlike a commission where the views of its members are vital,” he said.
“Even though the minister has other functions and duties, a period of five and a half months is unreasonable for him to make a decision.
“Even though there are other cases (102 appeals before the Home Ministry) for the first respondent to make a decision on, Pejuang’s appeal should not have taken too long because it does not involve complicated issues to be decided on.
“It is my view that based on these facts and circumstances, an order of mandamus should be granted against the first respondent to decide on the appeal by the applicant (Pejuang) within 14 days from the date of this judgment (today),” the judge ruled.
However, Kamal did not grant Pejuang’s bid for a mandamus for the minister to order the ROS to finalise the registration of Pejuang as a political party.
Counsel Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali appeared for Pejuang, while senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly @ Arwi represented the minister and ROS.
Pejuang was formed in August last year as an offshoot of Bersatu. Hamzah is Bersatu’s secretary-general, with the president’s post helmed by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Pejuang pro-tem chairperson and former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, pro-tem president Mukhriz Mahathir, and several others were previously ejected from Bersatu for refusing to sit with the Perikatan Nasional government during a parliamentary session.
Before this, via a separate email dated Jan 6, the ROS also rejected the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance’s (Muda) application to be officially registered as a political party.
Muda mounted a failed legal bid to compel the ROS to officially register it as a political party.
Muda, which is spearheaded by former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, then appealed to the home minister against the ROS’ rejection of its registration application. Syed Saddiq was also once a member of Bersatu.
On April 26, Muda initiated a second judicial review, because the minister allegedly had not made a decision on the group’s appeal for registration.
Muda’s second legal challenge will come up for a court hearing on Aug 12. – Malaysiakini