Defending exemption for Umno, home minister says decision not above legal challenge

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — Home Minister Senator Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has defended his decision to exempt Umno from deregistration over its motion to prohibit contests for its top two posts during internal elections.

The minister told Parliament that his decision under the Societies Act 1966 could still be challenged in court by those unhappy with the ruling.

“If the complainants are dissatisfied, if a minister abuses power, for example, the available avenue is that he can present the basis of the statement and affidavit in accordance with the law, due process.

“And we will be called to answer it. Then the court will be the channel to determine it,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Dissatisfied with Saifuddin’s answer, Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan (Perikatan Nasional - Kota Baru) then asked the minister to verify a supposed letter from the Registrar of Societies (RoS) to Umno directing the party to take “corrective measure” over the motion.

The Opposition chief whip said the minister’s decision to exempt Umno could have broad ramifications for all parties in Malaysia.

Saifuddin ignored Takiyuddin’s question, however, and reiterated his remarks about his decision being justiciable.

Takiyuddin then criticised the minister for avoiding the question, and even called him a coward.

However, Saifuddin refused to be drawn into an exchange.

“You can provoke, you can poke but I won't entertain any provocation, I'm not going to hit below the belt,” the senator said.

Yesterday, Saifuddin said he had, using his power as the home minister under Section 70 of the Societies Act, decided to exempt Umno from complying with that Act’s Section 13(1)(c)(iv) in relation to the approved motion in the 2022 Umno general assembly to not have the top two posts contested, after the reference was made to Umno’s party constitution and its rules.

Under Section 13(1)(c)(iv), the Registrar of Societies may cancel the registration of any society if the Registrar is satisfied that the registered society has wilfully contravened any provisions of the Societies Act or any regulations made under the Act or any of its rules, among other things.

Section 70 states the home minister’s power to use his discretion to exempt any society registered under the Societies Act from all or any of the provisions of the Act.

Yesterday, Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claimed to have no knowledge of the viral letter from the RoS which had said the Umno motion — for the top two posts to go unchallenged — was invalid.

Zahid said Umno’s secretary-general had received a letter from the Home Ministry to approve the no-contest motion for the top two posts and said it was sufficient to prove that the motion was legitimate, also insisting that the Home Minister has the final say.