The Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) will know on Feb 4 whether it could proceed with its legal bid to be registered as a political party.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court will decide on that date whether to grant leave to the group to commence with its judicial review against the Registrar of Societies (ROS) and the home minister.
This was confirmed by senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly @ Arwi, following today’s online hearing of the judicial review leave application before judge Mariana Yahya.
“Decision is fixed on Feb 4,” Ahmad Hanir said when contacted today. He acts for the two respondents in the matter, namely the ROS and the unnamed home minister.
Lawyers Tommy Thomas and S Ambiga appeared for the 13 judicial review leave applicants, who include former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
Yesterday, it was reported that among the reasons for Muda seeking the judicial review was an allegation that an unnamed home minister had asked Syed Saddiq to "commit" himself to the unnamed prime minister.
In an affidavit in support of the judicial review leave application, Syed Saddiq, the Muar MP, claimed that the minister sought this from him (Syed Saddiq) when he asked about the registration status of Muda.
Muda’s legal bid is targeting the ROS for rejecting its registration application via email on Jan 6.
In a separate email, the ROS also rejected Parti Pejuang Tanah Air’s (Pejuang) application to be officially registered as a political party.
The applicants seek a court order to quash the ROS’ Jan 6 decision which refused to register Muda as a society under the political party category per Section 7 of the Societies Act 1966.
They also seek an award for damages including aggravated and exemplary damages, costs, and all necessary and consequential relief, directions and orders deemed just by the court.
According to a copy of Syed Saddiq’s affidavit in support of the application, the decision to refuse registration is allegedly unconstitutional as it violated the applicants' fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as well as the right to form associations.
He claimed that the decision is a nullity as it was done beyond the powers conferred on the respondents by Section 7 of the Societies Act 1966.
Syed Saddiq also claimed that the real reason Muda was not allowed to be registered was linked to his refusal to abide by the unnamed home minister’s request that the former "commit" himself to the prime minister.
The former member pointed to an alleged communication between him and the minister on Dec 13 last year, in regard to the then status of Muda’s application to be registered.
“The minister replied that I should ‘commit myself’ to the prime minister. He reminded me that I had hitherto been voting against the government in Parliament.
“I again responded to say that I cannot abdicate my duty as a member of Parliament and will always vote in accordance with my conscience and the interests of my constituents,” he claimed.
Syed Saddiq also alleged that the ROS' willful refusal to register Muda would deprive voters of another choice of a political party to vote for.
He claimed this is particularly so against the background of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government having a slim majority in Parliament, which purportedly signals an impending 15th general election.
“Further, numerous motions of no confidence have been filed against the prime minister in Parliament. All these factors point to a general election being called in the near future.
“The failure to register Muda will therefore gravely hamper the preparation by Muda and its candidates for GE15 or any future by-elections. This will result in prejudice to Muda, our candidates and our voters,” Syed Saddiq claimed.
Besides Syed Saddiq, the other applicants are former Suaram project coordinator Amir Hariri Abdul Hadi; former medical doctor Dr M Mathen; Alzahra University post-doctoral research fellow Teo Lee Ken; freelance Spanish translator Dr Thanussha Francis Xavier; lawyers Lim Wei Jiet and Luqman Long; former national economic action council member Mohd Fakhruradzi Tajuddin; Perbadanan Kota Buku CEO Mohd Saufy Nizar Abdul Rahman; Syed Saddiq’s special officer for Muar constituency Nur Afiqah M Zulkifli; agricultural entrepreneur Shahrizal Denci; NGO member Siti Rahayu Baharin; and Institute for Leadership and Development Studies projects and operations manager Tarmizi Anuwar.
When previously speaking to Malaysiakini, Muda co-founder Thanussha said the ROS' decision prejudiced its constitutional rights to association.
Muda is spearheaded by Syed Saddiq, who was formerly Bersatu Youth chief until he was booted out from the party. Muda aims to be a youth-centric, multiracial political platform.
Earlier on Dec 10 last year, Pejuang, led by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, filed a judicial review to compel the ROS to make a decision regarding the party’s registration status.
The review had sought a mandamus order to either approve or reject Pejuang's application to formally register it as a political party under the Societies Act 1966.
Pejuang also sought a declaration from the court that the ROS and its director-general’s failure to respond to any application or written communication is unreasonable and ill-intentioned to delay the registration.
However, this legal action was withdrawn when Pejuang was informed of ROS' decision not to register it on Jan 6.
Pejuang was formed last August as an offshoot of Bersatu.
Its pro-tem chairperson Mahathir, pro-tem president Mukhriz Mahathir, and several others were previously ejected from Bersatu for refusing to sit with the PN government during a parliamentary session.
Mukhriz had said that if Pejuang's registration is rejected, the party may consider contesting the next general election under another party or on a coalition's ticket, rather than as third-party independents.