Status quo for PPBM as political party (Updated)

KUALA LUMPUR: The position of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) as a registered political party remains status quo.

The High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) today allowed PPBM's application for leave for a judicial review on the 30-day provisional dissolution order issued by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) earlier this month.

Delivering the decision in chambers before both parties, Judge Datuk Azizah Nawawi has also granted a stay on ROS' order to deregister the party pending the disposal of the judicial review on the validity of that order.

In her written judgement, she noted that PPBM is a political party, which aspires to contest in the coming General Election on May 9.

"If the stay is not granted and PPBM remains provisionally dissolved, it may cause irreparable damage to the political party in its attempt to provide an alternative choice for the voters.

"As such, I am of the considered opinion that the ROS decision dated April 5, 2018, must be stayed pending the disposal of the substantive application," Azizah said.

She also noted that based on the news reports submitted by the applicant it would seem that the Home Minister (Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi) "had asked ROS to not just initiate an investigation but to step up the probe" on PPBM.

"Bearing in mind that the allegations against the Minister are not proven at this leave stage and that the matter will be fully investigated at the substantive stage, my concern is whether there is an arguable case on the issue of bias and prejudice," she said.

Azizah said based on the allegations raised by the applicant, there could be a "breach of natural justice if the minister is to hear the appeal" by the applicant under Section 18 of Societies Act 1966.

"This, by itself would constitute an exception to the general rule that judicial review is not an option when there is an alternative remedy by way of appeal.

"As such, I find that the applicant has shown an arguable case which merits the matter to proceed to the substantive stage. Leave is granted with cost in the cause," she said.

PPBM's lawyer Rosli Dahlan said Azizah has fixed May 7 for case management for inter-parte hearing.

"It is a very courageous judgement, based on facts and law. Judge went on point by point, on the facts that the expectation that we should appeal to the minister does not arise because of a possible bias," he told reporters outside the court.

He said the evidence submitted showed that the registrar possibly could have been influenced.

"It is very good of the learned judge (for noting that) this is a matter of public interest and a general election coming soon, there must be a stay to ensure that PPBM would not be qualified.

"This is a great day for Malaysians, who want to give our society and citizens the right to choose. Who you choose is your right but that right to choose must not be robbed by a civil servant, who seeks to disqualify a political party who aspouses change. It is a victory for Malaysians to have judges like this," Rosli said.

On April 5, ROS had issued a 30-day provisional dissolution order against PPBM, claiming that the party failed to submit documents and information required of it.

PPBM secretary-general Shahruddin Md Salleh filed a leave application for a judicial review on April 13 and named ROS director-general Surayati Ibrahim as the sole respondent.