Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Selangor MB crisis, beyond a matter of decorum

By GURDIAL SINGH NIJAR
PKR president and Kajang state assemblyperson Datuk Seri Wan Azizah commands the majority of the state assembly in Selangor and is the sole candidate for the post of Menteri Besar by PKR and DAP. - The Malaysian Insider pic, September 12, 2014.PKR president and Kajang state assemblyperson Datuk Seri Wan Azizah commands the majority of the state assembly in Selangor and is the sole candidate for the post of Menteri Besar by PKR and DAP. - The Malaysian Insider pic, September 12, 2014.
















The Selangor Palace is clearly peeved by what they see as insolent and defiant conduct by two of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition parties – for refusing to supply more names for the Sultan's consideration for the post of Menteri Besar (MB).
To many, the obdurate stance of these parties is puzzling. Just give the two or more names and all will be well and over.
But will that solve the crisis? Or breed yet another?
In his 22 years as prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad informs, there has always been one name submitted to the monarch by the major party of the ruling coalition for the MB's post; the Sultan then constitutionally endorses the decision of the party in power.
Why then is there a departure in what should constitutionally be a routine selection and endorsement by the Sultan of the choice made by the current coalition in power in Selangor?
And what should be made of the contention that the Palace – in determining who commands the majority of the members of the state legislative assembly – can choose anyone whose name is not even provided by the majority party, and on the basis of a wide range of subjective criteria?
This seems to suggest that the Sultan has absolute discretion in choosing whoever he feels fits the criteria and that he is free to decide who commands the majority – even if there is a clear indication by the party in power of who is their chosen candidate and who commands the majority in fact.
Quite naturally it is always prudent, and indeed well known, that in submitting a candidate for the post of MB, parties invariably take into consideration the acceptability of the candidate to the Ruler.
This shows, said the late Sultan Raja Azlan Shah of Perak "the importance of the role of the Rulers even in matters in which they have no absolute discretion, even though at times their actions are difficult to justify". This averts any major constitutional crisis.
But as both Sultan Azlan Shah and our first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman noted, "The Rulers too should reciprocate;" "... and show their appreciation and play the role they are expected to".
This is really the nub of the matter.
In a constitution grounded in democracy, the respective players must play their part.
One runs the government on the basis of the mandate given in an election, the other ensures that the will of the majority is carried through, including in the choice of their leader to run the government.
In appointing the prime minister or the MB (as the case may be) –  implied Raja Azlan Shah in an article written after he relinquished the highest post in the judiciary to become the Sultan of Perak ("The Role of Constitutional Rulers in Malaysia") – the Yang DiPertuan Agong (and by extension the Sultan) "is not completely free".
The Constitution requires him to appoint a member of the House of Representatives who in his judgement commands the confidence of the majority of the members of that House.
And there has not been any problem if (inter alia) the Sultan or the King endorses the decision made by the major party in the coalition. Because "when a party chooses its leader it is always with the understanding that if the party comes to power, he would be the PM" said Raja Azlan Shah.
A crisis emerges when these roles are confused and this does not take place.
The matter goes beyond hurt feelings over a lack of decorum? These can, and seem to have been, assuaged by appropriate apologies.
But upholding the basis of a functioning constitutional democracy – are these not the fundamental principles at stake? – September 12, 2014.
* Gurdial Singh Nijar is a professor of law at Universiti Malaya.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/the-selangor-mb-crisis-beyond-a-matter-of-decorum#sthash.Iye7nV5J.dpuf

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