PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia's ruling party Umno has expelled 16 members who filed a legal application to have the party dissolved for allegedly violating its constitution.
Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor on Saturday (April 21) said the members' move clearly violated clause 20.7 of the party constitution, which stipulates that any member who goes to court over party matters would automatically lose their membership.
"These 16 people are probably wolves in sheep's clothing, thorns in the flesh. If they want to betray the party, it is better that they are out," said Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan, according to national news agency Bernama.
"I have consulted our lawyers and all 16 have been expelled. I will issue the letters today," he told reporters at an event on Saturday.
According to news site Malaysiakini, the affected members, from 11 Umno branches in six states, are Salihudin Ahmad Khalid, Noor Halimi Yahya, Mariam Mohd Ishak, Mohd Hafami Hanif, Saharuddin Tukiman, Azaid Jani, Normalawati Hassan, Radiana Abd Manaf, Mohd Raafeek Rahim, Nurul Hanna Mohd Suhot, Kamarul Abd Wahid, Mohd Hikamal Md Hassim, Muzamzamir Abd Wahab, Norizam Jamaludin, Rohani Ahmad and Muhamad Hafizi Hashim.
The first plaintiff Mr Salihudin is Umno branch chief at Seri Merpati Pandan Indah branch.
The 16 members had on Friday filed an application for a judicial review at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, claiming Malaysia's largest party had twice deferred its internal elections, beyond the three-year limit imposed by its own constitution.
Mr Tengku Adnan said the members' allegations were baseless because he had requested the Registrar of Societies (ROS) for approval to have the party elections postponed to April 2019.
"If ROS had not given its approval, we would have had the party elections," he said.
The application comes just weeks ahead of the May 9 general election, and after the ROS had on April 5 temporarily suspended opposition party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) for failing to submit certain documents and information.
"I know what happened," said Mr Tengku Adnan, as quoted by Bernama. "The (political) opposition wanted a tit-for-tat. They were unable to handle their party which had problems with the Registrar of Societies. They know they are weak and will lose (in the general election). So, they cause all kinds of trouble."
Former Cabinet ministers Rais Yatim and Rafidah Aziz had earlier commented on the constitutional issue, asking whether Umno could contest in the general election as a result.
Tan Sri Rais Yatim on Thursday said the courts, and not the ROS, should decide on this constitutional issue. Meanwhile Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said according to the law the party cannot contest in the polls as it has disregarded its own constitution.
Umno last held its polls on Oct 19, 2013. The party, which leads Malaysia's ruling coalition Barisan Nasional, was first given leave last year by the ROS to postpone its polls to April 19 this year. In March, the ROS told Umno it could again postpone its polls, to April 19 next year.