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Monday, September 29, 2014

Sedition or not: Selangor Palace has set a DANGEROUS precedent

Sedition or not:  S'gor Palace has set a DANGEROUS precedent
Most legal authorities and previous judgments on such issues are clear on one thing - the sultan/governor/Agong must choose the candidate who is most likely to command the support of the majority of the state assembly or Parliament for the post of menteri besar/chief minister/prime minister.
And where it is clear that a single candidate commands that majority support, there is no need for the titular head of state to ask for any other names to be nominated but he has to follow the constitutional duty of endorsing the candidate who legally commands the majority support.
This is what a constitutional monarchy is about, where the the head of state lies above politics, does not interfere in the administration of the state, and whose only role here is an important, non-partisan one of ensuring the person who commands the support of the majority of the assembly is the chosen one.
That is the essence of Parliamentary democracy and this must not be allowed to be played around with by any party as the will of the people is reflected through elections in the composition of the state assembly and Parliament. The role of the monarch is to ensure that the will prevails no matter what.
The sultan of Selangor had insisted on other names to be submitted for consideration, but this was not done by PKR, who said that they need to submit only one name. And indeed, according to most sane legal opinion, that is correct.
What happened in Selangor is a dangerous precedent because the candidate who enjoyed the majority support of the Selangor state assembly, PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, as indicated in statutory declarations, was not even so much as considered for the position of menteri besar, let alone chosen.
Imagine if you will a situation in the next general elections: if BN wins, can the Agong demand that the coalition submit a few names for him to consider for prime minister? And if the Pakatan Rakyat coalition wins, can the Agong turn down the person who commands a majority in Parliament for prime minister when he satisfies all other conditions?
Yes, unthinkable. So what’s the difference now?
The issue is not that Dr Wan Azizah is Anwar Ibrahim’s wife or of nepotism, whether it exists or not. What matters is that, if she meets qualifying conditions, then she is entitled to become the menteri besar so long she commands the majority support in the assembly.
But PKR’s decision to name only one candidate was pilloried in the mainstream press which supports the BN, including one that is currently making a big show of endorsing bold and brave views towards moderation.
It was made to appear as if Anwar was being rude and even treasonous to the sultan, and Anwar uncharacteristically apologised to the sultan while gently maintaining that the decision to nominate one person was correct. Indeed it was.
Constitutional crisis?
PKR had its infamous differences with PAS over the issue. The way the whole thing proceeded, it threatened to take the nation into a constitutional crisis which promised to be long, drawn-out, and involve a series of battles in court.
But in what seems to involve backstage bargaining and posturing, the eventual person chosen as menteri besar, Azmin Ali, was not even on the list of candidates submitted to the sultan by PKR and PAS.
How can that be? And why are all parties so quick to accept a solution that goes so much against constitutional law in Malaysia? Why has PKR backed down on its insistence that just one candidate is all that it should nominate and now supports Azmin?
Perhaps for PKR, the consolation is that the new menteri besar is from PKR and is its deputy president. For BN and the sultan, the acceptance from PKR avoids a potentially damaging and embarrassing constitutional crisis whichever way the courts decide. And for Selangor and the nation, it means things can go forward.
The question that remains unanswered in this sad and sorry saga is this - why is Azmin, deputy president of PKR, acceptable as menteri besar, and why is Dr Wan Azizah, the president of PKR not? Especially when she commanded majority support of the assembly in the first place.
One more question - why is everyone now agreeing that Azmin be menteri besar? Expediency perhaps, political expediency. But this does not come without a cost.
The biggest loser from this prolonged crisis and its eventual unsatisfactory outcome is the rakyat because the people’s right to chose their leaders has been eroded. An incident like this one is only likely to encourage the palace’s greater interference in choosing the country’s leaders.
And in future, together with the politics of brinkmanship which Malaysia is increasingly heading towards, one wonders what this means towards a smooth transition of power according to the wishes of the people.
Democracy was the major loser in how the Selangor menteri besar was chosen, and by extension, the people whose right to choose had been curtailed. -TMI

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