KUALA LUMPUR, 3 Feb 2009: Umno Youth chief aspirant Khairy Jamaluddin said he is opposed to party-hopping because it is unethical, but he will not support anti-hopping legislation.
"I personally have written and spoken about party-hopping being unethical, and I would hold that line.
"But when there's no legislation preventing it from happening, you can say it's unethical but you can't stop it from happening," he told The Nut Graph in an interview at his office yesterday.
He said even though it was unethical, it would be hard for the Barisan Nasional (BN) to "resist the temptation" of toppling a government by encouraging defections, especially since "we didn't start it".
On 25 Jan, the Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak claimed victory when Datuk Nasaruddin Hashim, the Umno assemblyperson for Bota,joined Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
Subsequently, speculation has been rife that PKR state assemblyperson for Behrang Jamaluddin Mat Radzi and Changkat Jering assemblyperson Mohd Osman Jailu would be hopping over to Umno.
Prime Minister and BN chairperson Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has since come out to say the BN would accept any Pakatan Rakyat-elected representatives who wanted to join the BN.
If the two assemblypersons, who have been charged with corruption, do defect to Umno, the move would reduce the Pakatan Rakyat government's majority in Perak to a wafer-thin 30:29.
Taint of scandal
Asked to comment on Umno's apparent welcoming of Jamaluddin and Mohd Osman into its fold when both were facing corruption charges and the party was on an anti-corruption drive, Khairy said, "First of all, these two are innocent until proven guilty. But obviously they have the taint of scandal above them.
"I would be extremely disappointed if they jumped over and the charges were dropped against them. To me, that would not only be unethical because of the party-hopping bit. That would be extremely unethical because you're basically saying if you want to get out of [a] charge for a crime, then join Umno.
"And I think that's what a lot of people will think. You want a free pass out of prison or a free pass out of a courtroom, then join Umno. So I certainly do hope that if they do decide to jump for whatever reason, they're doing it for reasons which are unrelated to the corruption charge."
Freedom of association
Khairy, who is the current Umno Youth deputy chief, however, stressed that he would not support any proposal for anti-hopping legislation.
Describing his position as being a "grey area" that only a "small minority" subscribed to, he said his view is a bit unique "because I don't support party-hopping, unless, of course, that person has been sacked from the party.
"But I also don't support anti-hopping laws, simply because to me, it's unconstitutional. It's against the right of association."
Khairy, who is also the Member of Parliament for Rembau, said he is opposed to defections because a candidate is not just voted in for who he or she is, but also because of party affiliation.
"When you're voted in, you are also just like anybody else. You are free to associate, and if you believe that your voters' interests are served better in another platform, then you may decide to go. But the manner in which you go shouldn't be in hopping," Khairy said.
"I'll give you an example. If the government collapses today, and there's a national unity government, and you are asked to serve... in that case, yes, you are not hopping."
Khairy also cited the example of being an independent candidate as one way to continue serving one's constituency without still belonging in one's party.
To a question, Khairy said the BN did miss an opportunity to be principally opposed to party-hopping.
"But faced with the stark political reality of appearing principled, or actually trying to topple a state government, I think many people in the party would say, 'Go for the second option, especially when we didn't start it.' I think it's very difficult to resist that temptation.
"For a lot of people within the BN, you can't sit still idly and watch this happen. I mean, tit for tat. I, personally, of course, don't hold to that view, especially if it includes inducements or things that entice them to come over," he said,
Khairy added that neither the BN nor the Pakatan Rakyat could claim the "moral high ground" on party-hopping since both were involved in encouraging defections to their side.