KUALA LUMPUR • Sixteen members of Umno yesterday filed court papers to have Malaysia's biggest political party suspend its activities for allegedly breaching the party's Constitution.
Their move followed comments by two former Cabinet ministers asking if Umno could take part in the May 9 general election, as the party had twice postponed its internal polls - way beyond a three-year limit imposed by its own Constitution.
The issue is closely watched because the Registrar of Society (ROS) last month granted Umno a second extension to postpone its internal polls. The ROS two weeks ago temporarily suspended opposition Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) for failing to abide by its Constitution on a matter the registrar would not disclose.
Umno last held its polls on Oct 19, 2013. The party, which leads Malaysia's ruling coalition, was first given leave last year by the ROS to postpone its polls until April 19 this year.
Then last month, the ROS told Umno it could again postpone its polls, by one more year to April 19 next year.
The group of 16 Umno members yesterday, represented by lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla, made three applications to the High Court, said a report in the Malay Mail Online news site. "We are of the opinion that the judicial review is needed because of Umno's failure to adhere to its own Constitution," Mr Haniff told a news conference at Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex.
Former culture minister Rais Yatim on Thursday said the courts, and not the ROS, should decide on this constitutional issue.
"Umno can only go about its daily business once it gets a court declaration. If not, many members will question the legality of Umno," Malaysiakini quoted Datuk Seri Rais as saying on Thursday. He said Umno was deregistered in 1988 amid a leadership battle after some members asked the High Court to decide on an Umno constitutional matter regarding illegal party branches.
Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, another former minister, said according to the law the party cannot contest in the May 9 polls as it has disregarded its own Constitution.
Umno postponed its internal elections in the past five years as it faced headwinds from the scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, and later, as the party geared up for the general election. Umno's secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said on Wednesday that the ROS has the power to issue the two postponements.