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Mahathir’s party temporarily disbanded by the Malaysian authorities

Malaysia’s Registrar of Societies (RoS) director-general Surayati Ibrahim announced the disbandment of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s political party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) on Thursday (5 April), saying that the party had failed to submit required documents and information to RoS.

The move is said to possibly affected the opposition Pakatan Harapan’s chances in the upcoming general election.

Opposition members harshly criticised the move, particularly as it came just hours before a court was scheduled to hear a related case regarding Pakatan Harapan (PH)’s registration as an opposition pact.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan, a PPBM Supreme Council Member, said, “The deregistration order is an abuse of power by a regime that is desperate to stay in office. Umno is clearly scared and they are doing everything they can to stop the rise of PPBM. We will continue to fight this abusive regime. This action provides an even stronger evidence that they must be removed if we want bring back integrity into our institutions.”

Ms Surayati stated that starting from Thursday,as the party is temporarily disbanding, PPBM cannot conduct any activities, nor use its logo and name, within a 30-day period.

It is widely expected for Prime Minister Najib Razak to announce the dissolution of Parliament on Friday, paving the way for elections to be held in the first half of May before Ramadan.

Ms Surayati responded to a question of what would happen if the party continue to hold activities or use its logo and name, saying that it would be in violation of the law, however, declined to elaborate further, including on the types of actions that could be taken against the party.

She said PPBM now has 30 days to appeal and submit all the documents and information required by the RoS, adding that under Section 14(6) of the Societies Act 1966, if PPBM manages to hand over all the required documents and information within the said period, the RoS can cancel the temporary disband order.

Otherwise, under Section 14(7) of the Societies Act 1966, PPBM’s registration could have its registration cancelled.

Dr Mahathir expressed his disappointment hours after the announcement over the temporary dissolution of PPBM, saying that the decision reflected the unfair electoral practices in the country.

He said, “There are no fair elections. Forget about bersih (clean, in Malay).”

Earlier that day, Dr Mahathir stated that PH had made contingency plans in view of the problems it was facing, including having all its candidates campaign under one logo which will be unveiled on Friday.

The pact’s prime ministerial candidate said after a PH presidential council meeting said, “We have said before that we will use one logo. We are one, we are Pakatan Harapan. Nothing is going to break us.”

PH is made up of PPBM, Democratic Action Party (DAP), Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Amanah.

Earlier, PPBM positioned itself as a defender of Islam and the rights of bumiputras, or indigenous Malaysians, which was seen as a tactic to erode the support base of Umno. However, this strategy would now have to be revised if PPBM is not allowed to contest the election.

Outside the High Court, PH secretary-general Saifuddin Abdullah told reporters that it did not expect the RoS to blatantly deregister PPBM two hours before a substantive hearing in court, saying, “This is an attempt to obstruct PH from giving their full strength during the coming election and it is not surprising to us.”

The secretary-general then said that PH’s presidential council had anticipated all possibilities and had decided that the seat allocations agreed previously among its four parties will remain unchanged, adding, “This means we will still be contesting 52 parliament seats in the Peninsular.”

DAP Member of Parliament Gobind Singh Deo, a lawyer, stressed that the temporary suspension a mere two hours before a court hearing on a related matter is tantamount to contempt of court, however, before the court could make a decision on the matter today, a decision was made by RoS that directly impacted the case.

He then stated that the submission of a letter by RoS instructing the temporary suspension meant that PPBM cannot be considered a PH party in the ongoing case.

Mr Gobind then requested the court to defer the hearing to a later date to allow the applicants to submit a new affidavit including the suspension letter for the court to review.

DAP national chairman Tan Kok Wai said that the four parties in the PH coalition will continue to work together, saying, “The more (ruling coalition) Barisan Nasional tries to break us up and finish us, the more united we will be.”