On Verge of Polls, Malaysian Agency Deregisters Key Opposition Party

Hata Wahari
Kuala Lumpur
180405-MY-bersatu-620.jpg Registrar of Societies Director General Surayati Ibrahim shows the temporary deregistration notice given to United Malaysian Indigenous Party (Bersatu), April 5, 2018.
Hata Wahari/BenarNews

Malaysian authorities deregistered the key opposition party Thursday, in a move that leader Mahathir Mohamad called “an abuse of power” and an attempt to confuse citizens on the eve of the widely expected dissolution of parliament preceding a general election.

Mahathir’s United Malaysian Indigenous Party (Bersatu) was deregistered for failing to hand over a series of documents within a 30-day deadline after being notified, Registrar of Societies (RoS) Director General Surayati Ibrahim declared.

Bersatu is a member of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance.

“The application to register PH has also been rejected because of the temporary deregistration of Bersatu,” Surayati announced at 2 p.m., an hour after parliament adjourned for its last session during the current government’s term.

Mahathir, a former prime minister who came out of retirement and defected to the opposition from the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) two years ago, said PH would appeal to the government and courts, if necessary.

The action by RoS was aimed at preventing his party from challenging the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party in the election, a Bersatu statement said.

“As far as we are concerned, we are a functioning party,” Mahathir told reporters.

RoS claimed Bersatu had 30 more days to comply with its instruction to produce documents related to meetings held at branches, divisions and the central level, or face an infinite deregistration.

Surayati told reporters the action was necessary because Bersatu failed to comply with a Feb. 28 notice.

She denied there was political pressure from UMNO, adding that RoS was investigating 402 complaints from Bersatu members who were dissatisfied with how the party was being run.

The notice was handed to Bersatu Secretary General Shahruddin Md Salleh, Suriyati told reporters at RoS headquarters in Putrajaya.

Moving forward over the next 30 days, Bersatu is not allowed to conduct any activities using its name or logo.

“An action will be taken if they refuse to abide by the law,” Suriyati said without explaining what such action would entail.

Can’t stop us: Mahathir

Speaking to reporters hours later at Pakatan headquarters in Petaling Jaya, Mahathir challenged the legitimacy of the original notice, alleging it was delivered to the wrong people at the wrong address. Although it was dated Feb. 28, it was not delivered until March 6, meaning the original 30 days to respond had not expired, he said.

Bersatu also answered the questions, he said.

“RoS has been told we have no branches,” Mahathir said, adding that because it was a new party, there were no meetings and no minutes. The press statement said Shahruddin had reached out to RoS on March 30 to ask whether additional information was required and was informed the party had conformed with all orders.

Meanwhile, the coalition will move forward with its campaign until the courts rule against it, Mahathir said, adding it planned to use its name and logo.

“There’s no way they can stop us from contesting. They can declare our parties illegal, but they can’t declare us illegal,” Mahathir told reporters and supporters.

Anticipating that Prime Minister Najib Razak will dissolve parliament on Friday afternoon – after which the Election Commission will set a date for the election – Mahathir announced an event would take place that evening where PH would discuss its campaign plans.

“We are a very open party,” Mahathir said. “No secrets, nothing to hide.”

Mahathir heads the Pakatan coalition that is looking to challenge the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, led by Najib, in the coming 14th general election.

The polls must be held by August but are expected to occur by early May.


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