by Joe Fernandez
COMMENT The latest talk along the political grapevine in Kota Kinabalu and the local media is that the Sabah People’s Front Party (SPF) might be more than willing to “accommodate” the so-called Sarawak Workers Party (SWP) on one condition: that the SWP fields and finances SPF candidates in Sabah under its (SWP’s) banner.
The alternative is that SPF, led by Deputy President Osman Enting, would apparently “go all out to destroy SWP”.
The prime-movers behind SWP aren’t taking the bait so far and are unlikely to do so since that would be tantamount to their admission of being complicit in an alleged illegality. It would have been quite a different matter if the story had not gone public. In that case, the prime-movers would have been more than willing to throw money at the problems to make them all go away.
Obviously, the purported “destruction threat” relates to SPF’s charge that no EGM was ever held by the party to approve the name change to SWP and the shifting of its headquarters, if any, to Kuching. Hence, the complaint goes, any minutes related to a purported EGM held by SPF on the matter were “falsified”.
The purported EGM was supposed to have been held at the Palace Hotel in Kota Kinabalu but in reality “only happened on paper”. The party constitution calls for any name change to be endorsed by two-thirds of its Supreme Council
The disclosure by Osman makes up the thrust of a police report lodged by him and 31 other senior party leaders in Kota Kinabalu on May 31 and a complaint filed at the Registrar of Societies (ROS) in Kota Kinabalu. Ironically, it was the ROS Sabah which obtained the name change documentation from Putrajaya and handed them over to SPF in response to an official request from the party.
The police report has been lodged with the Registrar of Societies in Putrajaya together with the minutes of a special party meeting convened on June 3 in Kota Kinabalu under Osman to suspend SPF president Berman Angkap and secretary-general Salun Dueasim. Osman heads the party’s disciplinary council.
The SPF’s reported “about-turn”, if true, is not just on. There are even reports that Osman has withdrawn the police report in order to “settle the matter internally”.
This is not a situation where “compromise” is possible between contending factions i.e. one led by Osman, another by the “suspended” president, and the third by SWP activists in Kuching.
Serious charges have been levied and the law must be allowed to take its course and those found indulging in wrong-doing must face the consequences of their action. The list of wrong-doers would include anyone in SPF who, on second thoughts, may be actively moving in the direction of the so-called compromise.
SPF’s name change to SWP is clearly non-existent in law although approved by the ROS on April 2 this year.
It’s a principle in law that if someone obtains official documentation and/or certification by falsification, deception, fraud and misrepresentation, then such documentation and/or certification is void and a nullity in law as if it never existed from the very beginning. The “approval” of the ROS does not exist in law.
For another, the ROS should not take lightly the rampant practice of “selling” and “buying” political parties. Indeed, such practices would not take place if the ROS had not been only too willing to be in cahoots with the Home Ministry to deny any application for registration of a political party deemed a threat to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. It’s unconstitutional.
SWP deputy president George Lagong, putting up a brave front, claims that the SPF’s registration certificate in the new name is “legitimate”. His group, led by “President” Larry Sng, “would not entertain any claims by SPF in Sabah”, according to George.
There’s genuine fear in those “earmarked for destruction” by SWP that the parties in conflict over the name change would be allowed by the ROS to paper over their differences, so to speak, in order to legalize an illegality. Clearly, this is not possible since the proverbial cat is out of the bag.
The overwhelmingly Iban Dayak-based Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), for one, which has been targeted for demolition by the “still-born” SWP is crying foul and is determined to see that the law is upheld and the miscreants face the music. It’s understood that the party has written to the ROS in Putrajaya for clarification and followed this up with a meeting.
The party intends to keep tabs on the SPF/SWP situation and ensure that the latter is not resurrected from the dead. The party is even prepared to claim locus standi, based on newspaper reports issued by SWP against it, and seek a Judicial Review in Court to squash the decision by the ROS to approve SPF’s name change to SWP and its migration to Sarawak.
Lawyers for PRS are confident that the party will win hands down if push comes to shove.
The consensus among the legal community and others in the know is that the police in Kota Kinabalu should follow up the report lodged by Osman and send the investigation papers to the AG’s Chambers. It appears that Osman cannot withdraw the police report if the allegations are true, and if untrue, he faces possible criminal charges for making a false police report.
However, 31 other witnesses cannot possibly be wrong when they alleged that the so-called minutes of the purported EGM had been falsified.
Independent of the police probe, the ROS is duty-bound to seek further clarification in writing and in person from those who collected the name change certification and have it recalled and suspended. There may be grounds here for the ROS himself to lodge a police report against those who collected the name change certification.
Needless to say, those who collected the name change certification to SWP and those listed as office bearers in Sarawak would be “blacklisted” by the ROS, Special Branch and the Home Ministry from applying for the registration of any new political party.
Meanwhile, the ROS would be further duty-bound to write officially to SPF to show cause why it should not be deregistered.
It’s a certainty, in that case, that SPF would be deregistered.
SPF’s latest woes can be traced back to certain quarters reportedly linked to Sabah Umno veteran Lajim Ukin. The veteran, it appears, forked out several hundred thousand ringgit to set up a new headquarters for the party in Kota Kinabalu with a view to taking it over. The sums may include that paid out to certain SPF leaders who were alleged involved in the purported EGM and the related minutes.
Unfortunately for those eyeing SPF in Kota Kinabalu, the party subsequently went on “sale” in Kuching where the modus operandi for its transfer and re-birth were hatched in not too many details.
SPF claims to have a membership of 50,000 in 42 branches throughout Sabah.
Its avowed objective is to drive Umno out of Sabah.
SWP claims to be BN-friendly except for its declared aim of wiping out PRS.
Larry had not so long ago claimed to be PRS President, a dispute which involved the ROS, and brought the party to the brink of deregistration if not for a timely move by then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step in and support embattled President James Masing. PRS was quick to expel Larry and his faction from the party despite the best efforts of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud to step in and save the young Chinese politician aspiring to lead the Dayak party.