Malaysia: KL High Court orders Home Minister to decide on Pejuang party registration appeal within 14 days

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — The Kuala Lumpur High Court on Friday (25 June) ordered Home Affairs Minister Hamzah Zainudin to decide on an appeal concerning the registration of former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s new political party, Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) within 14 days.

Justice Ahmad Shahrir Mohd Shahid found that Hamzah, in his capacity as Home Minister, had breached his statutory duty or committed an omission of duty under Section 18 of the Societies Act by failing to make a decision on Pejuang’s appeal up to the ruling.

“A convenient time as stipulated means as soon as possible or within a reasonable time.

“Taking five and half months to decide on this appeal is beyond a reasonable time,” said the judge, highlighting that Pejuang had filed their appeal to Hamzah on 8 January after their application for party registration was rejected by the Registrar of Societies (RoS).

Pejuang brought the matter to the courts for judicial review in April on the grounds that Hamzah had breached his statutory duty under Section 18 of the Societies Act.

The party’s secretary-general Amiruddin Hamzah said that by failing to take action on their appeal, the Home Minister was denying its constitutional right to contest in the general election using its own logo.

Hamzah had instead asked the RoS officers to meet with Pejuang’s representatives “to discuss the party’s constitution”.

Challenging Hamzah’s reasoning that he was unable to attend to Pejuang’s appeal due to having over a hundred appeals from multiple organisations to consider, Amiruddin pointed out that officers within the Home Ministry could assist him in doing so.

“I reiterate that even if there are other appeals pending before him, the time taken to decide on Pejuang should not be too long as the issues involved are not complicated,” Justice Ahmad Shahrir said.

The judge did not make any order on costs.

Other than Pejuang, MUDA — led by Muar Member of Parliament and former youth minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman — had also filed a legal challenge against Hamzah on a similar matter.

MUDA’s case on their party’s registration will be heard on 12 August.

Speaking to CNA in a video interview in August last year, Syed Saddiq said that it is high time for politics in Malaysia to cease being “controlled and monopolised by the same old people”.

“If in Thailand they can set up Future Forward, in France they can set up En Marche under Macron, I think it is timely in Malaysia to start up a movement made of young people,” said Syed Saddiq.

The new party, he said, will comprise “young technocrats, professionals, young politicians from different backgrounds” to ensure that the interests of the youths in the country “can never be taken lightly any more”.

Syed Saddiq was formerly the leader of ARMADA, the youth wing of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (BERSATU) while BERSATU was still a component party of the Pakatan Harapan coalition alongside Parti Keadilan Rakyat and the Democratic Action Party.

Bersatu is currently led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin after co-founder Dr Mahathir was ousted from the party. The party is now part of the Malay-centric Perikatan Nasional alliance with Umno and PAS.

Dr Mahathir’s then-right-hand man Muhyiddin took the mantle of Prime Minister following a power vacuum left by the former’s resignation from the post.

In a poem written in Malay, published on his personal blog on 12 August last year, Dr Mahathir criticised Bersatu, saying that the party, which was originally established to save Malaysia from kleptocracy and corruption, has been ‘hijacked’ to “save our enemies” for the love of power and money.

He wrote that his new political party Pejuang was borne out of “awareness” of the destructive effects of corruption on Malays.

“If you seek positions and money. Choose another party. If you want to reclaim [your] dignity. If you want to preserve our rights. Choose our party. Choose PEJUANG,” concluded Dr Mahathir.

Speaking at a news conference at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in September last year, Dr Mahathir said that “it is difficult” for Syed Saddiq’s youth-centric party to succeed despite the youth being “a very big portion of the electorate”.

“In any constituency, there will be old people, there will be young people. We are going to appeal to the young people as well,” he said, referencing Pejuang.

Syed Saddiq, however, responded to Dr Mahathir’s remarks by stressing that his party is “youth-led” and not “youth-exclusive”.

Commenting on Dr Mahathir’s assertion that the new party may serve to “split” Malay votes, Syed Saddiq told Malaysiakini in an interview that he is not in politics “to only be the servant of the Malays”.

“I’m here to be the servant for all Malaysians. I’m not here just to unite the Malays, but to unite all Malaysians,” he said.

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