Checkmate Barisan National in Perak

by Koon Yew Yin
20th March 2009

Like most ordinary people, I was initially very confused by all the articles and commentaries on the Perak constitutional crisis. Just like reading an interesting book, I was anxious to know what the ending would be. There is one important difference though. Unlike a book, the ending of this crisis – for better or for worse – will affect my life and the lives of ordinary rakyat of Perak, as well as all Malaysians, given the ramifications that the outcome will have on the constitutional process of political power and governance.

In recent weeks I have become increasingly concerned with the twists and turns in this modern version of the Perak wayang kulit which – as with some of the stories found in its traditional form – contains strong moral and ethical elements. These recent developments include the infamous act of demolition of the “Democracy Plaque” put up by the rain tree and the recent action taken by the Federal Government to charge Karpal Singh under the ISA for saying that the Perak Sultan can be sued.

All these events seem to indicate that the Barisan Nasional Government has prevailed in its attempt to oust the Pakatan Rakyat state government from power. Reading the official media accounts and analysis one can certainly be forgiven for thinking this. I, too, similarly was of this view until I attended the talk given by former Appellant Judge Dato N.H. Chan at the Perak Bar Council on 19th March 09. The title of his talk was ‘ How to Judge a Judge’. To get the maximum benefit from the lecture, I read up Justice Chan’s two articles, namely ‘The tussle between the Sultan and the Mentri Besar in Perak’ and ‘The Arrogance of a Novice Judge’.

After the talk, I asked a few questions and the answers I got, clarified all my doubts. In the English or Western chess game, the situation is now called zugzwang. It is a German word to describe a chess player’s position when he has to make a move that will only worsen his position.

The Perak constitutional crisis started on 4th Feb 09 when the PR Mentri Besar Dato Seri Mohammed Nizar requested the Perak Sultan to dissolve the legislative assembly because two 2 of the PR assembly members resigned and declared themselves as independent assembly members. As a result, PR now has 28, BN has also 28 assembly members, and there are 3 independent members. The ruler turned down Nizar’s request. The next day after seeing the Deputy Prime Minister Najib Rasak, the ruler summoned Nizar to tell him that he had to resign and Dato Zambry Abdul Kadir was then appointed as the new Mentri Besar.

This political impasse arising from what has now been widely assessed to be a hasty and unwise move by the Perak Sultan has now become more complicated. On 18th Feb 09, the ‘newly appointed’ Mentri Besar Zambry and his 6 Executive councillors were suspended by the Committee of Powers and Privileges of the Perak State Assembly for 18 and 12 months respectively.

On 3rd March 09 the Assembly Speaker, V. Sivakumar called for an emergency sitting of the assembly but the Perak State Secretary (with the assistance of what is supposed to be our ‘politically neutral’ police force) prohibited all the PR state assemblymen to enter the State Assembly building. The Speaker was undeterred and convened the meeting under a tree nearby. All the BN assemblymen including the ‘newly appointed’ Mentri Besar Dato Zambry boycotted the assembly.

In this assembly under the tree, 3 resolutions were passed:

1. The Assembly confirmed support for Dato Seri Nizar as the legitimate Perak Mentri Besar.

2. The Assembly confirmed the suspension of Dato Zambry and the 6 newly appointed executive councillors for 18 and 12 months respectively.

3. To seek all the possible ways to dissolve the Legislative Assembly.

Immediately after, the newly appointed BN Mentri Besar Dato Zambry rushed to the court to sue V. Sivakumar, the speaker for suspending them and to seek an injunction to stop the speaker from holding any more assembly meetings. Zambry and his assembly men did not realise that their boycott of the Assembly under the tree was a fatal move which I shall explain later.

The legality of the assembly under the tree is the key to resolve the impasse.

The following is my analysis of the political chess game which has now taken place in Perak and the moves by the two opposing sides.

1. According to Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution, the validity of any proceeding in the Legislative Assembly of any state shall not be questioned in any court.

2. The Assembly is the master of its own procedure and laws. Any redress must be made in and come from within the House. In other words, a member can move a resolution to rectify any perceived error or irregularity.

3.The jurisdiction of the Perak Assembly over its own members, its right to impose discipline is absolute and exclusive.

4. Therefore, the suite filed by Zambry and his de facto EXCO to challenge the legality of their suspension is doomed to fail, if the proper law is applied.

5. Such being the case, the BN does not command a majority in the Assembly.

Without Zambry and the six other suspended members, BN only has 21 members. And even assuming the three others who have ‘resigned’ are included, BN is still in the minority with 24 members against PR’s 27.

6. We have a unique situation now where the ‘new’ Mentri Besar would not dare call for any sitting of the Assembly because that would expose his vulnerability. Furthermore, the fact that he is unable to attend the sittings is a good enough reason for him to resign from the Assembly as he is legally and constitutionally unable to present the Budget and also defend his policies in the Assembly.

7. Zambry’s position seems now to be untenable as it is contrary to established constitutional theory whereby the chief Executive should be a member of the Assembly. It is a matter of time before he is forced to resign by sheer force of circumstances.

8. Before the assembly meeting under the tree, the State Assembly met on 11th and 12th Nov. 08. Assuming that all the BN elected assembly men attended the assembly, they did not attend the assembly convened under the tree. According to Article xxxv of the Perak Constitution the Assembly can declare the member’s seat vacant if he or she is absent for assembly meeting for a period of 6 months. So by 13th May 09 if an assembly is called, the BN members will be voted out and if they do not attend the Assembly, their seats will be automatically declared vacant.

Therefore, checkmate and the game is over.

To enlighten readers further, let me explain the term ‘checkmate’ in chess. It is when an opponent has no legal move to protect his king.

As we all know, currently there is no Government in Perak. The delay in resolving the political crisis is affecting the State’s economy and social order – not to mention political order; and sooner or later all Perakians will suffer.

The BN leaders must consult their legal team and quickly resolve the problem. What is the opinion of the Queen’s Council? If what I wrote is legally correct, they should not wait till 13th May 09 to be forced out in ignominy and disgrace.

A quick return to the ballot box to see which party the Perak electorate wants as its state government is the only morally and legally defensible option for all stakeholders. It is also the way out of this political quagmire.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 1:06 pm

    If Datuk Nizar wins in Bkt Gantang, hrh should take it as a sign that the Perakians reject Bn, and must be prepared to allow state-wide elections there to ascertain which govt the rakyat really wants.

  2. #2 by taiking on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 1:13 pm

    So what was the QC’s opinion?

    Valid power grabbing act or invalid power grabbing act?

    My guess, INVALID of course.

    And I dont think I am wrong.

    We all know the mentality and modus of umno and the msm.

    If the QC’s opinion favours them they would be singing and dancing surely.

    So where are the songs and dance?

    Where are they?

  3. #3 by ALLAN THAM on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 1:26 pm

    Now we have the old hat open his mouth again and accuse all and sundry except admitting his own big mistake.

    Many might not agreed with me on our old hat contribution to Malaysia but I would like to put this analogy.

    Over the past 22 years, yes he has build a big and beautiful house for all Malaysian to live in, the illusion was that every body was happy as we could see the big house and beautifully decorated with all huge projects etc. Now what he has done was this house can only stand if all 4 pillar the foundation are strong. But this old hat has destroyed all the other three and left one pillar one so to same. This country has been crippled by this old hat other wise we would come to this stage while all power come to only one pillar. All the three has been crippled. It was very difficult to repair unless this old hat admitted his mistake and give amend what he has done to our country.

  4. #4 by 9to5 on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 1:58 pm

    Koon Yew Yin,

    The check mate you mentioned is correct provided BN and its cronies in the judiciary play by the book and follow the laws.

    For a fact, every Malaysians have now learned that BN does not play by the book nor follows the laws!

    Every first year law students know about the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive but a mockery has been made of even this basic principle by the supposedly “learned” judges and ex-judge.

  5. #5 by ekans on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 2:04 pm

    The takeover of the Perak state govt by UMNO’s BN had begun after the DPM had assumed the post of the Perak state UMNO’s BN head.
    However, being the no.2 in the federal govt, the DPM should not have meddled with the affairs of the Perak state govt.
    Obviously, the DPM had utilised the ‘muscle’ of the federal govt to bulldoze PR out of the way & make way for UMNO’s BN to take over.
    This nation is officially known as the Federation of Malaysia, because it is a federation of several states.
    Thus, every state govt should have some significant degree of autonomy, while the federal govt should only concern itself with affairs at the overall national level.
    It’s clear that UMNO’s BN does not practise such ideals as it wants to retain/expand its power at all costs, no matter what’s the resulting damage…

  6. #6 by monsterball on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 2:18 pm

    hahahahahahahaha…This is really funny and only UMNO politics can come out with so much twists and turns…lawful or unlawful…legal or illegal…with the Sultan of Perak…wise decision.
    If it was that wise…..why so much problems?
    If all the problems pointed out by PR Parliamentarians are unwise…unlawful…illegal….why so many idiotic Malaysians …….including yours trully supporting PR on this issue?
    Yes….truths revealed…UMNO is the most sensible……most reasonable….smartest Malaysians…and we need to keep learning from them. 52 years not enough.
    Idiots like us…..need forever be taught what is right or wrong.

  7. #7 by sightseeing on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 3:04 pm

    ……..//legally and constitutionally unable to present the Budget……//

    Without the 2009 budget approved, I wonder how this illegal BN government is going to pay the civil servants? May be they will resort to printing UMNO banana money.
    This time sure mati lah.

  8. #8 by monsterball on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 3:10 pm

    I tell you….we have the best crooked politician….best art …how to twist and turn…most thick skinned hypocrites…how to blame others….before others start blaming them…..the world can ever produce.
    It is played by the UMNO government…all nice guys..taking insults accusations…forever forgiving such pious Muslims. Yet they will shut every important elected oppositions parliamentarian ‘s mouth….indirectly shutting Malaysians representatives….applying dictatorial rule.
    Out of Malaysia…they are known as corrupted braggarts
    Here they are heroes.
    Yes..UMNO must rule forever..or else…….
    Biggest Tsunami has yet to fight the
    or else”..with no fear.
    Malaysians have been too kind…too protective..too selfish…in the past. 12th GE gave birth to true democracy.
    Do w want to move forward or backward?
    Only real real idiots and blockheads dare not vote for change of government.
    Are we Brazilians? Are we allowing Dictators to rule over us?
    Those are countries that are still very poor and helpless….need foreign aids. Do we want Malaysia’s wealth ……..your money and mine..keeping sucking up by UMNO?
    Are you having titles and owning bangalows ….here and in overseas..driving brand new most expensive … Merz cars?
    If anyone can prove a politician or a high ranking policeman can be so filthy rich….based on their salaries…go ahead….keep voting UMNO. Their success must be much to be admired!! Is it so??
    Are we that blind …or such selfish Malaysians?.
    Do we want Malaysian Malaysia…or be contented to be divided and rule by crooks..who think Malaysian belong to them and them only.

  9. #9 by ShiokGuy on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 3:14 pm

    May 13 2009?

    Sound like a good date, but it could be turn into FEARFACTOR by the BN machinery

    Has anyone come across the Video on Youtube about “Judge if Najib was Lying” The video talk about NLP and how it is apply to detect if someone has lied.

    I have put together some video tutorial on NLP and how to detect lies here,, the “Judge is Najib was lying” is also included. Enjoy!!

    Shiok Guy

  10. #10 by Cinapek on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 3:28 pm

    “…checkmate and the game is over….

    To enlighten readers further, let me explain the term ‘checkmate’ in chess. It is when an opponent has no legal move to protect his king. ….”

    Yes, Mr Koon, this assumption is correct in a nation where the rule of law is supreme. But in Malaysia where the ends justifies the means, it is anything but…

    If you need further proof, just go and read the article ” Khalid had no right to change marks” on Page 12 of the STAR today. Khalid Yusoff, the former examination director of the Certificate in Legal Practice, who was found guilty for changing the marks of candidates, offered by way of explanation in his defence that he “was mandated to help bumiputra candidates and to maintain the pass percentage at 30%. This statement has the following ramifications:

    1) That bumiputra candidates were “helped” to pass with marks adjusted. I feel sorry for those bumiputra candidates who actually passed on merit. They are now tarnished with the same brush.

    2) That the CLP passed many candidates who would otherwise have failed because they were simply not qualified.

    3) Those non bumi candidates who passed must have done extremely well because marginal cases would have been displaced by those whose marks had been adjusted.

    4) That this was an institutionalised cheating and was “mandated”. “Mandated” by whom I wonder?

    5) One wonders how many of these “adjusted marks” legal practitioners are out there now? Is this the reason for the poor quality of the justice system now?

    Khalid, according to the news report, was a former law school dean at UiTM. A person of his standing and training should know very well what is wrong and right. One has to wonder when he started compromising his principles in giving passing grades to non deserving candidates. And he should know that these professional exams were implemented for a reason and that is to make sure only competent practioners are allowed to practice. By passing non deserving candidates, he has destroyed the reputation and integrity of the profession.

    His act of betrayal is only one aspect of the fabric of Malaysian society. How much further and deeper such rot exist is anyone’s guess but if we look around at the shamefully low level our universities has fallen in world rankings and the quality of our graduates, I think we do not have to look very far.

    And UMNO delegates are demanding that the universities appoint only UMNO members to head them. Good luck!!

  11. #11 by alexislalas on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 3:50 pm

    DAP looses its identity / DAP brand new identity…

  12. #12 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 3:51 pm

    In chess, there is also the “en passant” move where the pawns passes you by and if left unchecked and unhindered, they go forward to “queen”, the most powerful piece on the board.

    Will BN have several “queens” to crush PR instead, noting that many institutions appear to be siding with them?

    Further, there can also be the “pepetual check” and if moves are repeated three times, its a stalemate, a draw? And who wins? The person in control, in the case of Perak.

    So make sure you win a decisive win, otherwise its of no use and you will be running all over the chess board of Perak. And there will be no “shah mat” (checkmate) but a stalemate. PR still lose Perak and is check-mated instead.

  13. #13 by k1980 on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 4:20 pm


    Whatever happened to the 2 CLP candidates who ponteng-ed their CLP exam but were passed by His Almightyness Khalid? Wonder if STPM candidates can also ponteng their STPM exams and then receive passes in the papers they skipped?

  14. #14 by sotong on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 5:11 pm

    What checkmate?

    There is always new move created as they play….you are playing with very creative and imaginative players.

  15. #15 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 5:47 pm

    The goal posts are shifting again. PR cannot raise Altantuya issue, cannot question the Perak sultan, and cannot discuss racial or religious matters during the coming buy elections.

    Umnoputras can, of course, hentam non-Malays, give racial speeches, raise unsheathed keris, and tell non-Malays to behave as lower class citizens or leave.

    So easy to checkmate PR.

  16. #16 by monsterball on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 6:56 pm

    Should Muslims really want their race to be protected…PAS is non corrupted and much more sincere than UMNO.
    So it is only logical…all UMNO supporters should switch to vote for PAS….for the love of being truthful united Muslims.
    Chinese voters must wake up to realities in life..and stop being selfish….stop being poisoned by MCA or Gerakan that they are treated equal by UMNO. Being a strong minority….if ever MCA and Gerakan are that sincere….and influential..they would have demanded UMNO to treat everyone equal in all things..forging towards a united Malaysian country…long long ago.
    Chinese should cast away their obvious natural strong abilities to be able to withstand all sufferings. Their educated children must be treated equals by UMNO in being employed…based on merits.
    Are there treated equal in the teaching…police..judicial……military? In all government Depts too?
    So what have MCA and Gerakan been doing?
    Playing dirty politics….getting Chinese schools and Buddhist temples…is all they are good at…..where the strength of the country is 100% managed by Malays only.
    Similarly situation by MIC..where Samy Vellu…will forever be MIC President…as Indians by nature….submit to the fact…Samy is their savior….until Hindraf have exposed who he is..a useless….helpless good for nothing.. balls carrier to UMNO..good only to write love poems….indirectly shaming all Indians.
    As you can see…under UMNO…Chinese and Indians and other races are treated as …..second class citizens.
    Back to Malays…do you really think UMNO love you to have a future? Any father who keeps pampering and protecting a son … 52 years old …and his children and grandchildren….on and on…is never a good father. He is making those children and the children’s children… forever depend on the father.
    Such children will be weak in mind and body.
    UMNO is doing just that to Malays. Is that what you want?
    Read the above..where is unity………..NONE…each o it’s own.
    Where is Malaysia Malaysian……NONE. It will always be identified by race.
    Not good enough…..UMNO will make sure the Islamic religion is God give to Malays only.
    UMNO voters should stop playing race and religion politics with PAS….and if you are that sincere and want to is PAS…that is moving forward to admit non Malays into their party……therefore supporting a Malaysian Malaysia country.
    So does keDAILan and DAP.
    UMNO….MCA……..MIC.. are racialist parties……..and Gerakan is a bullshitter for personal benefits…now totally insignificant…after loosing Penang.
    You think Penang voters made the wrong move?
    Have doomsday come to Penang under DAP?

  17. #17 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 8:17 pm

    sotong Says:

    Today at 17: 11.45 (3 hours ago)
    What checkmate?”

    First you check, and then you mate. Hope that helps.

  18. #18 by computation on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 8:28 pm

    “In chess, there is also the “en passant” move where the pawns passes you by and if left unchecked and unhindered, they go forward to “queen”, the most powerful piece on the board.”
    sheriff singh

    rubbish. en passant and queening a pawn are two totally
    different things.

  19. #19 by computation on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 8:32 pm

    by the way what has happenned about the
    audience that nizar was seeking with the
    perak sultan???
    come on update us please.

  20. #20 by computation on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 8:33 pm

    what is going on regarding the death of the
    young indian man in the police station.
    don’t forget.

  21. #21 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 8:34 pm

    Naah! Both you guys are wrong.

    “En passant” means a pawn makes a pass at the queen. The king gets jealous, moves to the corner to sulk. The bishop comes to check on the king and then mates it. Who would expect a gay bishop??

  22. #22 by alaneth on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 - 11:32 pm

    May BN lose their election deposit money in the Bkt Gantang election! To reach that goal, BN must have less than 1/8 of the total votes.

  23. #23 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 1 April 2009 - 8:51 am

    Good points that the courts will never be able to resolve the crises. That is Nizar’s campaign right there..

    One of the thing in all this argument that is going on is this. In the end, is it a bad thing to severely discourage what BN did in Perak even if it was legal? The fact of the matter its was not something Malaysian voters want to encourage. The truth is most were on the side of Karpal Singh and DAP against party-hopping from the start and did not protest against Anwar simply because they wanted to protest more against BN as a whole. But as a rule, we as a people are against party-hopping for a long time and in the long run.

    So even if PR is using tough tactics in their fight in Perak after making mistakes, we are also overlooking their weakness because there is a larger longer-term issue of party-hopping versus PR’s immaturity, the choice is pretty clear who is to be supported by Malaysians…

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