THE Registrar of Societies (RoS) penalising DAP over its 2013 central executive committee (CEC) election is not a simple matter, according to lawyers.

“In the worst case scenario, DAP can be deregistered if it refuses to comply with RoS instructions, which means it won’t be able to use its name and logo during the elections,” former Balik Pulau MP and lawyer Yusmadi Yusoff said.

“However, it’s not as simple that because you can’t say DAP is unlawful when it has existed for so long. If it does not comply with RoS’s regulations, it just has to reapply again,” he told The Malaysian Insight today.

“RoS has to explain the delay. Failing which, it may not be able to deregister DAP,” said Yusmadi.

“That is why DAP wants the letter, because RoS has to give its reasons. Failure to do so may amount to an arbitrary decision, and cannot be used against a party which has participated in so many elections,” he said.

According to the Societies Act 1966, any unlawful societies can be fined up to RM15,000 or office bearers imprisoned for up to five years, depending on the offences, including publishing propaganda of an unlawful society, an unapproved symbol of societies, persons allowing unlawful society on premises and others.

Although it was reported that RoS has no intention of deregistering DAP, RoS had issued a public statement earlier asking for another CEC election.

Malaysian Bar constitutional law committee co-chairman Surendra Ananth said it was crucial that the RoS issued a letter to DAP for further legal proceedings to continue.

With said letter, Surendra said DAP would be able to appeal to RoS and give time for both parties to work together and resolve the problem.

“At that point, DAP can initiate judicial review proceedings to challenge the decision within three months once formally communicated,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

DAP previously said it would not hold another CEC election but would wait for the RoS to send its formal letter first.

DAP’s problems with RoS started after a technical glitch caused irregularities in a vote count during the party polls in December 2012.

The mistake was later rectified but unhappy members filed complaints with RoS, leading the then elected CEC to be declared invalid. DAP then held another election in September 2013.

Due to the uncertainties with RoS, there were worries DAP candidates might not contest in the 2013 general election under the party logo. However, the candidates were allowed to proceed in the polls unchallenged.

In December 2013, delegates from the Selangor DAP convention passed a motion to take legal action against the RoS, if it continued to refuse to recognise the party’s CEC.

However, in September 2014, DAP dropped its suit because RoS acknowledged that its statements were just advisory and not legally binding. This meant that DAP was still a legally registered party.

The matter was left untouched for four years and was thought to be over until Prime Minister Najib Razak’s press secretary, Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, reminded the opposition party that its CEC was not recognised by RoS.

The Registry of Societies of Malaysia is a department under the Ministry of Home Affairs handling non-governmental organisation and political parties. Its main functions are to administer and enforce the Societies Act 1966, Societies Regulations 1984 and policies that pertain to established societies in Malaysia.