The rejection of Pejuang’s and MUDA’s application for registration as political parties just underlines the glaring conflict of interests in regulation of parties.

Why should whichever politician who is Home Minister be allowed to control Registrar of Societies (ROS) and decide if his/her potential rivals can register a new party or if an existing party can be deregistered?

This is as absurd as putting Grab in charge of registration of other e-hailing companies or putting AirBnb in charge of registration of other home-rental companies.

United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (UPKO) calls upon ROS’s Director General Puan Masyati binti Abang Ibrahim, to uphold freedom of association provided for under Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution and approve the registration application by MUDA and PEJUANG.

UPKO supports the call by the Government’s Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) made in last August that registration and deregistration of parties must be placed under the Election Commission (EC).

However, the EC must also be made accountable to the Parliament and candidates for EC membership must first be vetted through by a parliamentary select committee in-charge of elections.

In 2018, the then ROS Director General Puan Surayati Ibrahim abruptly dissolved Bersatu’s registration on April 5, just a day before Prime Minister Najib Razak dissolved the Parliament, in an outright partisan move to undermine the opposition.

After winning power, the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government led by Chairman of Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu), Tun Dr Mahathir merely removed Puan Surayati from ROS but did not make ROS independent from political control or put party registration under an independent body.

The injustice that befalls Pejuang and MUDA, both splinter parties of Bersatu, is a reminder to all parties – if you do not eliminate injustice when you are in power, you might become victim of injustice when you lose power.

Penitent of our inattention on freedom of association before this, UPKO will include in our manifesto for GE15 a commitment to transferring power of registering parties to an independent EC, as per the ERC’s suggestion.

As a temporary measure, the Opposition should attempt a private member’s bill to amend the Societies Act 1966 to curb the arbitrary power of ROS. This can be initiated by the Member of Parliaments (MP) in Pejuang and MUDA, or by the Parliamentary Opposition Leader’s Office.

Even though private member’s bill will not get to be passed until our Parliament is reformed, we need to electrify people’s imagination.

As the MP of Tuaran, I offer my support in the formulation and sponsoring of this private member’s bill.

Malaysians are tired of political parties and politicians talking loudly about reforms, criticising government when in opposition but doing nothing when in government.

The Opposition parties must now rise up to the occasion and stand in solidarity with Pejuang and MUDA, with not empty words, but concrete actions.