GLC posts not ‘office of profit’, say lawyers

In the debate over MPs being gifted plum jobs at government-linked corporations (GLCs), one of the criticisms raised is an article in the Federal Constitution that disqualifies an elected representative if that person occupies an “office of profit”.

But lawyers say that, while on the face of it, that term found in Article 48(1)(c) might hint towards the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government running foul of the constitution, the term office of profit as defined by the law refers to something else.

Article 48(1)(c) is “quite popular as, on the face of the provision, it gives the impression that the MP cannot hold a position of profit such as a director/chairman of companies be it private of GLC,” says Alliff Benjamin Suhaimi, a partner at Thomas Philip Advocates & Solicitors. “But we have to look into the definition of ‘office of profit’ under the Federal Constitution which is provided in Article 160.”

Article 160 states:

“Office of profit means any whole time office in any of the public services, and includes—

(a) the office of any judge of the Federal Court, of the Court of Appeal or of a High Court; and

(b) the office of Auditor General; and

(c) the office of a member of the Election Commission, of a member (other than an ex officio member) of a Commission to which Part X applies, or of a member (other than an ex officio member) of any corresponding Commission established by the Constitution of a State; and

(d) any other office not specified in Clause (3) of Article 132 which may be declared by Act of Parliament to be an office of profit;”

Aliff said based on these definitions, the term “office of profit” is applicable only for public position, service or office. Article 132 lists down public services such as the armed forces, judiciary and legal services, police force and any civil service.

“So unless there is a specific declaration by Parliament that the holding of such private post amounts to disqualification under Article 48(1)(C), any MP can hold any private company or GLCs posts,” said Alliff.

So, positions in GLCs do not “amount to an office of profit under the Federal Constitution,” said Alliff.

Another lawyer, Mohd Ridhuan Md Kamal, a partner at Messrs T.K. Low & Co, told FocusM that the term “office of profit” may be confusing as the definition “may be quite different” from what a regular person would get from the same phrase.

“So as per the Interpretation Article 160, the office for profit is very limited. The definition refers more to offices of government instead of private institutions,” he said.

The appointment of MPs to GLCs come as part of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s plan to gift PN politicians with plum jobs. PN is a loose coalition primarily consisting of Muhyiddin’s party Bersatu, Umno, PAS and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.

Some of the highlights include Besut MP Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh as chairman of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) and

Padang Terap MP Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid as chairman of utilities giant Tenaga Nasional Bhd. Both men are from Umno.

But it is not just MPs that stand to be rewarded. Defeated electoral candidates from any of the PN parties who still carry some clout may also be in the running for such privileged jobs.

For example, former Johor MB Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who lost his Pasir Gudang federal seat as well as Pernas state assembly seat in the 14th general election, was appointed Boustead Holdings Bhd chairman on April 30. – May 22, 2020

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