A dangerous precedent in Selangor

By P Gunasegaram
Sep 24, 2014

QUESTION TIME 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 (left), 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.

P GUNASEGARAM is founding editor of business news portal KiniBiz. He, like most Malaysians, is extremely concerned about the way democratic rights are being eroded via a variety of mechanisms. This includes the use of the infamous Sedition Act of 1948 used by the British to curtail legitimate dissent during colonial times.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Sunday, 28 September 2014 - 7:35 pm

    Race, Religion, Royalty
    Know their effects on d past, presence, n future of dis nation?
    Got future aaah?

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Sunday, 28 September 2014 - 7:35 pm

    past, present, n future of dis nation

  3. #3 by bruno on Sunday, 28 September 2014 - 8:47 pm

    The new Selangor MB has already being officially sworn in.It is time for all the strange bedfellows which made up the PR,to forget about this disastrous MB fiasco and carry on with their miserable lives.

  4. #4 by bruno on Sunday, 28 September 2014 - 8:50 pm

    Now is the correct time to ponder what this MB fiasco will do to the PR in GE 14.It will have Umno/BN,especially the Mca laughing all the way to the bank.You guys better believe it.

  5. #5 by tmc on Sunday, 28 September 2014 - 11:22 pm

    LKS, do inform Anwar better not to go public with what the new MB will do as it provides instant feedback to PKR’s detractors and invite coverups. Remember Khalid kept all moves closed to his chest and was able to move quickly on the water deals, etc.

  6. #6 by boh-liao on Monday, 29 September 2014 - 12:51 am

    Unfortunately 4 PR, d entire episode exposed d STUPIDITY n USELESSNESS of PR
    PR has lost much of its reputation capital n leadership trust index
    As d author rightly pointed out: DEATH/LOSS of democracy; PR was bullied n it succumbed 2 doing d unthinkable (rakyat’s right to choose their leaders has been eroded, interfered by d palace)
    Instead of treason (really? got meh? even MMK confirmed one name dah cukup), let’s talk abt d TREACHEROUS behavior of opportunistic n NO-principled PAS

  7. #7 by Noble House on Monday, 29 September 2014 - 3:31 am

    Constitutional or Absolute monarchy? This conversation sparked a discussion of perplexing questions that we can never come up with the correct interpretation of what is clearly defined in the Federal and State constitutions. The people may choose but who are we to decide?


  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Monday, 29 September 2014 - 8:34 am

    Unfortunately after decades of Mahathirism and UMNO Baru, dangerous precedent is something we are way too used to even for today’s anti-BN voters. Think about it, Mahathirism warning why the nation is deep in debt when its experiencing one of its best growth period when similar period under him HE, the father of mega-projects and failures, accumulated surplus.

    We are too used to bad precedent..

  9. #9 by Justice Ipsofacto on Monday, 29 September 2014 - 9:05 am

    “There”. “There it is.”
    “Look.” “There.”
    “Oh boy.” “Its gone now.” “Your much too slow.”
    “But I didnt see anything …”
    “Oh there” “It has return.”
    “Behind his back.”
    “What the ….”
    “The umno hand”.
    “Do you see that hand?”
    “Behind his back, you idiot X*&%#@$+_*.”

  10. #10 by tmc on Monday, 29 September 2014 - 12:22 pm

    Pakatan must assume the worst when comes GE14, and decide how to tackle. Not loudmouths trying to justify this move that move, not numerous lists of things to do, not arguments, not inconsistent statements issued and recalled. INstead work quietly and get it done then present to the people as accomplishments, then you have a better chance.

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