AG, please advise to resolve

The largest party in the Prihatin Nasional coalition, Umno, withdraws its support from the coalition but Attorney General Idrus Harun says that PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin and his Cabinet will continue to exercise their executive powers because there are no “clear facts” to show that he has lost his majority.

Idrus said the federal constitution says only MPs in a Dewan Rakyat session can determine if a prime minister has the support of the majority and majority support is not determined “through a statement by a political party or any political party leader”. He said this in a statement released following Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s declaration to withdraw support for Muhyiddin as prime minister.

Idrus’s explanation may be the correct interpretation of the constitution but how come it was not rightly followed when PN seized control of the government in February last year? Muhyiddin claimed majority support without getting that support from MPs at a Dewan Rakyat session and marched to the Agong’s palace and got himself and the PN sworn in as the government.

By Idrus’ own interpretation of Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution which he quoted, it would mean that Muhyiddin’s claim of majority support following the Sheraton moves is also “not clear” and unproven — as pointed out by both former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Pakatan Harapan — and yet he was sworn in to lead the government.

Idrus should stop playing politics and give the proper advice to Muhyiddin to resolve the issue of legitimacy which is the only reason why the current climate of politicking is going on overdrive. Perhaps, a mistake was made in the swearing in of the PN leadership last year. If a mistake was made it should be corrected not legitimised with everyone pretending it is business as usual, like what is happening now.

Zahid withdrew support for PN but Umno MPs are continuing to serve with the PN. Umno now clarfies that it had withdrawn its support for Muhyiddin — not for PN– and its MPs can continue to work with the PN. There is also talk that Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs, which includes Umno MPs, have signed a statement declaring their support for Muyhiddin.

Well, by Idrus’ interpretation of the federal constitution, signed statements by MPs are invalid. MPs’ support must be proven in the Dewan Rakyat, which means the BN MPs statement of support will also make it “not clear” if Muhyhiddin has majority support.

A large party like Umno has left the PN. It just means PN has lost its majority but it must be tested in the Dewan Rakyat.

The special parliamentary session starting on July 26, perhaps, may provide opportunities to test the support for the PN coalition in government. However, that might pose other problems as currently no one political party has majority support which means even a no-confidence or confidence vote will prove futile since a new coalition may not emerge.

It’s no wonder that political parties are resorting to political deal-making over constitutional alternatives and the former will create more unnecessary political stress.

As AG, Idrus should demonstrate a clear commitment to the federal constitution and advise Muhyiddin on the best course of action to prove his legitimacy in the Dewan Rakyat and to step down if he fails to command the majority support of MPs. He needs to give not just Muhyiddin but the Agong the constitutional options available to both that would resolve the current political impasse. It should include the use of the Agong’s discretion if all else fails.

A good suggestion to put forward to both the Agong and Muhyiddin is Dr Mahathir’s suggestion to form a national recovery council. It will eliminate avaricious politicking and the immediate urgent need of managing the covid 19 pandemic will take precedence over chaotic power-grabbing politics.

Perhaps, that is what Idrus should suggest to Muhyiddin and the Agong. It would take us out of the current cauldron of all sorts of interpretation of constitutional legitimacy and focus on national recovery.

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