MPs told to divorce if they defect
Baradan Kuppusamy in Kuala Lumpur
The Islamic Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) has ordered its elected representatives to take an oath promising to divorce their wives if they defect, in a bid to stop them joining the ruling National Front coalition.
While other political leaders scoff at the PAS method, it appears to have worked for the party, because since last year's election not a single elected representative has defected to the coalition, which rules by a slim 30-seat majority in Malaysia's Parliament and is always looking for defectors to beef up its numbers.
The oath is taken in a mosque while holding a Koran, to put the fear of God into the representatives. All PAS leaders have taken such oaths, senior leader Khalid Samad said.
PAS leaders believe that since their wives are precious to them - and as Muslims, they can marry four women - they would not defect after making such a commitment.
'They would pay a big price if they defect,' Khalid said.
'That's why no PAS lawmakers have defected ... they appreciate their wives and families dearly,' Khalid said in Parliament on Thursday.
However, Muslim feminists and others questioned the method, saying it is an insult to women and the family institution to swear to divorce a wife or wives if a lawmaker defects.
'This is rubbish ... absolute rubbish,' said a leading Muslim feminist leader who did not want to be identified for fear of criticism from Islamic hardliners.
'They should educate their members on the principles of democracy and the evils of defecting, which is really selling yourself to the highest bidder,' she said. 'Everybody knows defectors are paid millions of dollars to defect.'
In contrast to the PAS, lawmakers from the Keadilan party, which is led by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, and the mainly Chinese Democratic Action Party frequently defect to the National Front.
The three opposition parties, gathered together under the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, enjoyed big wins in the 2008 polls, capturing five state governments from the National Front and 82 seats in the 222-seat Parliament.
The National Front has been keenly wooing Pakatan defectors, while Anwar has been trying to topple the government by inducing 30 National Front lawmakers to defect. The National Front won back Perak state in February after convincing Pakatan lawmakers to jump ship.
To stem the defections, the DAP and Keadilan have ordered their lawmakers to sign undated resignation letters, which if they defect would be dated and forwarded to the Election Commission to trigger a by-election in their constituencies.
However, in May the court held in a defection case that undated resignation letters were invalid and a by-election was not held.