Tag Archives: ismail sabri

The Red Flag Sabri and PN govt have raised

Prime Minister-designate Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s refusal to hold a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat does not inspire confidence that, like his predecessor’s coalition, his coalition is committed to upholding parliamentary democracy enshrined in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

The issue isn’t whether the Agong’s appointment of a prime minister as stated in Article 43(2)(a) of the federal constitution, that “the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint as Perdana Menteri (Prime Minister) to preside over the Cabinet a member of the House of Representative who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House” is illegitimate and unconstitutional. It is neither.

The process of appointment by the Agong is legitimate and constitutional but by itself, without the proof of majority, the process of legitimacy is incomplete because it does not affirm the parliamentary democratic process of demonstrating a majority as demanded by the constitution.

As lawyers and constitutional experts have repeatedly explained proof of majority is necessary and provided for in Article 43(4): “If the Prime Minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then, unless at his request the Yang di-Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the Prime Minister shall tender the resignation of the Cabinet.”

According to Article 43(2)(a), the Agong appoints a prime minister “who in his judgement is likely (italics, mine) … ” Likely does not mean proof or certainty. Read in the context of Article 43(4), the constitution thus allows scope for proof and certainty to be obtained through a democratic process, which in this case is a confidence vote.

By recognising the Agong’s decision, the Sabri coalition has upheld constitutional monarchy as according to the federal constitution. By refusing to prove the coalition’s majority, the Sabri coalition continues the previous government’s stance of failing to recognise the requirement of the parliamentary democracy we practise according to the federal constitution, of proving a majority.

Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy must be upheld at the same time for the appointment and election of a prime minister to be legitimate and constitutional. One can’t preclude the other. That isn’t constitutional according to the federal constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.

So, we now have an unconstitutional Cabinet and a prime minister who is yet to be sworn in.

To make matters worse, the rights of MPs under the parliamentary democracy we practice have not been duly recognised. The motions that the MPs submitted have been dismissed. It is reported that 15 motions were submitted to remove the Speaker of the House Azhar Harun.

The Speaker should realise that if 15 motions were submitted against him, he does not have the confidence of the house and he should resign. But he doesn’t, beholden to those who put him in that position, and ignoring the independence of the house.

His brother, Idrus Harun, the Attorney General, holds to the narrow interpretation of Article 43(2)(a) that the Agong’s appointment is sufficient for legitimacy according to the constitution, ignoring the spirit and intent of the federal constitution.

When the Cabinet, Attorney General and Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat have such a limited understanding of the constitution and downplay the role of parliamentary democracy, what certainty do the people have that the government will uphold and honour the constitutional rights of the citizens under parliamentary democracy as enshrined in the federal constitution?

That is the reason why this — like the previous Perikatan Nasional (PN) government — is a dangerous government. It interprets the federal constitution to fit its justification to remain in government. That leaves the people unprotected by the constitution and at the mercy of leaders who have the power of government to do as he/she pleases.

This has been proven under the PN government and now under the Sabri coalition. There are open double standards, selective prosecution, questionable dismissal of cases, the appointment of politicians facing criminal charges in court to official positions, and mismanagement of the covid 19 pandemic resulting in soon-to-reach 20,000 deaths. In all of these cases, the people suffer while politicians get off the hook.

We can not have such a government!

Now, secure of a place in the Malay-Muslim majority government, PAS is attempting to introduce legislation aimed at restricting the development of non-Malay religions — again without consideration for the non-Muslim citizens’ constitutional rights.

The Bersatu-led government in Sabah has rejected Putrajaya’s plan to introduce a new law that would restrict the propagation of non-Muslim religions. But Sabahans should not be fooled by the gesture. Bersatu wants Sabah votes in the next general elections and will block PAS which is initiating such laws. But, if Bersatu gets a comfortable majority with PAS’ help, the law will be back on the table!

PAS’ position of influence in the Sabri and previously PN coalitions make the latter cause for concern for non-Muslims. They may be controlled now but they won’t be if by remaining in a governing coalition they acquire power and influence which can be translated into votes in an election. The Malay-Muslim majority can identify with the conservative politics of PAS, Bersatu and Umno and it is very likely these parties will continue to get their support.

Should the Malay-Muslim majority’s politics get messy and out of control, PAS might emerge the strongest party and win the support of the Malay-Muslim majority like the Taliban got control of Afghanistan because the Muslim majority did not oppose.

We can’t wait for such a possibility to happen first before acting to stop it because it would be too late. We have to prevent it from ever happening by depriving PAS and its allies from the one resource that empowers them to entrench control — the power to govern.

The time is now to consider if this Malay-Muslim coalition is good for the future of this nation. All the MPs must decide. Sabah and Sarawak MPs especially must decide if supporting this conservative coalition is in the best interests of Sabahans and Sarwakians.

Sabahans and Sarawakians have to stop whining about the poor treatment they received by past prime ministers. They have to ask themselves now if they are allowing history to forfeit their future.

In the next sitting of the Dewan Rakyat starting on Monday, at the first opportunity they get, the MPs should reject the unelected and unconstitutional Sabri Cabinet. It would be best to do it early and let the process begin in the Dewan Rakyat to elect the next and legitimate prime minister. It would be resolved within days.

We will know by their vote which MPs voted for a progressive Malaysian future where the federal constitution is the supreme law of the land, and who did not. We will leave it to the voters to decide how to handle those who did not.

Some very important questions to address first

Prime Minister-designate Ismail Sabri Yaacob announced yesterday that the Covid-19 pandemic management will now be officially known as the Special Committee on Pandemic Management and will include representatives from Opposition parties. A day earlier he said that the Special Covid-19 Aid (BKC) for the hardcore poor, B40 and M40 groups will be channelled to recipients from September 6-11.

These are carry-over programmes set up by his predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin and Ismail may just be announcing their continuation. The question, however, is whether he can make these decisions as prime minister when he is yet to be be sworn in?

It is unusual — and never done in any country — when Cabinet ministers were sworn in before the prime minister was sworn in. How can the prime minister carry out official business without being sworn in? How can a prime minister function legitimately as the prime minister without passing a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat and proving his majority?

The reason given was that Ismail is under quarantine and couldn’t be sworn in with the Cabinet. The reason why he is yet to pass a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat is yet to be given. He doesn’t need to be physically present in the Dewan Rakyat for a confidence vote. There is such a thing as Zoom conferencing!

The procedure of first appointing a prime minister by the Agong and then swearing him/her in and having him/her face a confidence vote in Parliament are constitutional requirements. Until these requirements are met, the prime minister and his/her Cabinet will remain an unconstitutional government.

Until the prime minister is sworn in and his majority proven in the Dewan Rakyat, the caretaker prime minister continues. This is the procedure to install a new government when a previous government falls mid-term from a lack of majority or when a prime minister and his/her Cabinet resigns.

It is extremely disappointing that Umno and Perikatan Nasional (PN) MPs don’t seem to realise the importance and significance of following constitutional requirements and procedures to prove their majority and thus ensure the legitimacy of their government.

The Agong followed the constitution in appointing the prime minister. It is now up to the appointed prime minister to follow the constitution by facing a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. Until he passes a confidence vote, he remains an unconstitutional prime minister.

Ismail may be following in Muhyiddin’s footsteps and in doing so, like Muhyiddin, he may be operating outside of the constitution.

I am puzzled why the Opposition is not calling out Ismail with regard to the confidence vote. They are unusually quiet. Instead, I am astonished that Opposition parties are willing to negotiate with an unconstitutional prime minister for reforms. If their “silence” is a “ceasefire” in exchange for perks, it is unconstitutional and must be exposed.

Soon after Ismail was appointed, Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders met with him to discuss the possibilities of introducing reforms such as equal allocations for all MPs, input from opposition parties to participate in the National Recovery Plan, introducing an anti-hopping law, increased participation of Opposition parties in select committees and raising the position of the Opposition Leader to the level of a senior minister.

Such reforms are no doubt good for the nation, but they must be instituted constitutionally by a constitutional government and the first people to demand for constitutional adherence should be opposition MPs. Instead, we have opposition parties making deals with an unconstitutional government.

Please put the cart before the horse or bullock! Make sure the government is constitutional first before making deals for perks for the Opposition!

Making deals is part and parcel of politics but deals that are made to enhance the position of MPs or ministers with no benefit to the people are just plain corrupt practices. Buying MPs over which was evident in Muhyiddin’s time was simply aimed at propping up an illegitimate government. Muhyiddin’s example must not be followed!

In the current political scenario, any deal with an unconstitutional government is corruption. Deals that are made with a rightful government without contravening the constitution and which will benefit the people and not MPs will, of course, be morally acceptable.

For example, a clear current issue regarding facing a confidence vote is the fact that it is not spelt out in the constitution. Weak politicians without the mandate of the people and who want to set up a backdoor government will use this omission to sneakily form a government without a confidence vote and claim it is constitutional.

Strong leaders who understand that a confidence vote is the democratic right of MPs to cast a vote on behalf of their voters to support or reject an appointed prime minister may, instead, rally the majority of MPs to agree to a procedure to elect the PM through a confidence vote and present it to the Speaker or the Agong for endorsement. In exchange for the support of the Opposition MPs, the appointed PM may agree to a reform that would strengthen the Opposition and hence the parliamentary system.

Such a deal is ennobling because it rallies bipartisan help to plug a technical gap in the constitution in the election of a PM during mid-term. Once the PM is elected and his government becomes constitutionally legitimate, a law or amendment can be passed that clearly states the need for a confidence or no-confidence vote in installing a mid-term prime minister.

Such “deals” are commendable because they solve problems and result in consequences that directly strengthen the constitutional rights of citizens.

For all intents and purposes, Ismail’s leadership and Cabinet are a continuation of Muhyiddin’s PN coalition. The country is where it is today because of the latter’s leadership. The economy is in the dumps and the covid-19 pandemic continues to spread unabated beyond the Klang Valley. Vaccination arrests the spread but between now and vaccination the virus keeps spreading because only 48.3% of the population is fully vaccinated according to the Our World in Data website.

Our figures are telling. As of yesterday, we have a total of 1.79 million covid-19 cases, and a total of 17,191 deaths. Could these figures have been much less if we had a better government?

Right now, that is our No 1 priority. Can we bring the daily cases and deaths down? And the most important question to address urgently and immediately is whether the Ismail Cabinet can arrest the raging pandemic so that deaths are fewer?

A confidence vote will determine if the MPs have confidence in Ismail to arrest the pandemic. Govt and Opposition MPs must put the people first and vote accordingly. If they have no confidence, they must make it clear so that an administration is installed that has the confidence of the majority of the MPs to solve this problem immediately.

It is such a rightfully elected administration that will succeed in controlling the pandemic because it will get the support of the whole nation.

So, a confidence vote needs to be urgently and immediately introduced. Deaths by covid-19 are on the heads of those who delay or will not introduce it.

Set the precedent, PM; face a confidence vote

What is more disappointing than new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s rehashed lacklustre Cabinet is the fact that he has not passed a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. By not facing a confidence vote, he has failed to uphold the spirit and intent of the federal constitution.

His Cabinet is no different from the previous prime minister, Muhyuiddin Yassin’s Cabinet — over-sized and packed with mediocrity or less of it. That is to be expected since Umno, Perikatan Nasional and its partners offer Ismail limited choices. But, why did he go ahead and make a prime ministerial decision without first proving his majority through a confidence vote, and finding legitimacy from it?

Ismail’s party, Umno, may argue that that his appointment is constitutional and democratic. Constitutional? Yes. But democratic? That can be argued. By not facing a confidence vote, he has opened himself up to questions regarding the legitimacy of his government.

Doesn’t Ismail know that in a democracy, if the prime minister and his Cabinet are not elected through a general election and is installed during mid-term because the previous government lost its majority, the new administration must first prove its majority through a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat before it can govern?

In the absence of a general election, passing a confidence vote is considered as rightful election to govern by the elected representatives of the people. In a democracy, a confidence vote is the only available instrument left for the people to elect a government of their choice through their elected representatives.

Critics can claim that the federal constitution says nothing about a confidence vote with regard to a mid-term takeover of a government. Article 43 (2)(a) of the federal constitution states that “the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint as Perdana Menteri (Prime Minister) to preside over the Cabinet a member of the House of Representative who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House”.

The Agong “in his judgment” based on the statutory declarations (SD) of 114 MPs rightly appointed Ismail as prime minister. It is also correct for the Agong to swear in the Cabinet based on Article 4(6) which states: “Before a Minister exercises the functions of his office he shall take and subscribe in the presence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong the oath of office and allegiance and the oath of secrecy set out in the Sixth Schedule”.

This far, the steps taken by the Agong are correct since no where is it stated here that the appointed PM must face a no confidence vote as suggested by some constitutional experts.

However, between the appointment of the PM and his/her swearing in, no time frame is specified, which suggests there is room for MPs to devise a procedure where after the Agong’s appointment of the PM, the latter faces a confidence vote in the spirit of democracy and if the latter wins, the swearing in can proceed.

This would ensure that the Dewan Rakyat has irrefutable records that the appointed PM won or lost the confidence vote and that position can’t change as MPs who sign SDs might in a vote in the Dewan Rakyat. In this way, the legitimacy of the appointed PM will no longer be in question and if at all the Opposition strives to remove him/her, it would not be because of the legitimacy issue but because of the performance of the PM and his/her Cabinet.

A procedure or precedent must be set now to deter MPs from undermining a legitimately elected government if they can’t face a confidence vote to prove their majority.

In Ismail’s case, it is very unlikely that he will lose a confidence vote — unless by an unexpected twist of fate! Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has declared that the Opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) will not “complicate” things. What he means by that we don’t know, but Anwar lost yet another golden opportunity to take over the government when he failed to get the support of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) on his very strong and secure 105 Opposition votes.

It was the second time he lost the chance to become PM. The first was last year when he sent a message out to the Opposition MPs to NOT vote against the Budget. If the Budget was not passed, Muhyiddin’s government would have fallen and Anwar might be PM today!

So, Ismail has nothing to worry about in facing a confidence vote. The Opposition is faltering; he might win it. He will lose it only if Anwar clearly demonstrates his leadership abilities and works out a fair and permissible power-sharing deal with GPS.

So, it is puzzling why Ismail hasn’t announced yet that he will be introducing a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat — unless, of course, he isn’t confident of his majority. All the more reason why he should face it and MPs should demand it!

Even if not spelt out in Article 43, a confidence vote is the final step in proving an appointed PM’s majority and we should set the precedent now to introduce it in accordance with the spirit and intent of the parliamentary democracy we practise and the federal constitution.

It’s the people’s hope that Ismail will set the precedent.