Tag Archives: unconstitutional

Advice to elected officials: Don’t make deals, vote instead

The Malacca state assembly was dissolved on Oct 5 when four assemblypersons withdrew their support for the ruling coalition made up of Umno and Bersatu. Two of the assemblypersons were from Umno, one from Bersatu and the other was a coalition-friendly independent.

Former chief minister Sulaiman Md Ali said that he had advised the Yang DiPertua to dissolve the assembly. Do chief ministers advise the head of state, in this case, the Yang DiPertua, Ali Rustam? What was his reason for giving that piece of advice? He acted in anticipation of the resignation? What if the four changed their mind at the last minute?

Did Ali Rustam make the decision after consultation with the prime minister or his party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi? Can such a decision be made without the green light from the PM? What is the chain of command and was it respected?

This is the current state of politics, unstable, chaotic without clear protocols and with MPs acting with questionable motives. It is yet another consequence of the Sheraton Moves of February 2020 and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin will be held responsible for it.

He formed a government on the strength of the appointment by the Agong without seeking legitimacy by proving his majority in the Dewan Rakyat, which is an underlying constitutional requirement. Muhyiddin circumvented the constitution in order to become prime minister. He relied on relationships and deals and look at the political instability that followed. It was needless stress on the people in addition to the stress of dealing with the pandemic.

MPs initiating a change of leadership in Perak, the emergency controversy, suspending Parliament, Umno MPs resigning from Muhyuiddin’s Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition, Zahid pulling out of PN leading to Muhyiddin’s resignation only to later support the current Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and remaining in the same coalition. What came out of all that? Nothing good to the people but leaders got what they wanted. It was a futile, wasteful effort and the people received no benefit.

The only reason we have had to deal with all this political turmoil is because Muhyiddin set a precedent for a government to be formed outside of the Dewan Rakyat. As a result, look how quickly Malaysia fell from grace as a possibly developed modern nation of the future to the worst-performing nation in the world in terms of recovering from the pandemic. The economy is struggling to get back on the path to recovery with little help from the government while the government focuses on helping the B40 group which is their political base.

All this political instability could have been avoided if Muhyuiddin did just one thing right: Strictly setting the example of following the words, intent and spirit of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. He followed the constitution when it suited him but ignored it completely to legitimize his PN government. So, it remains an unconstitutional government, even under Sabri because he, too, didn’t face a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat to prove his majority.

Yet, the Opposition signed an MoU with an unconstitutional government to seek reforms in exchange for not voting against the government! Should a more intelligent leader become a subsequent prime minister, he or she may look at the MoU and decide not to uphold it on the grounds it was signed with an unconstitutional government. What kind of dazed thinking has overtaken our MPs? Supporting an unconstitutional government!

This is Muhyiddin’s modus operandi. Making deals based on relationships and bypassing the Dewan Rakyat. And Opposition MPs and the Dewan Rakyat Speaker have gone along with it when they should have fought tooth and nail to reinstate the supremacy of the constitution and taken the issue of the election of a mid-term prime minister to the Dewan Rakyat.

Now, look at Malacca. The same chaos prevails because an attempt was made to topple the state government outside of the state assembly. On Monday, we will know whether Malacca will have state elections or an emergency. There may be neither because, at the last minute, typical of Umno, the party may decide to join forces with the same components of the just-dissolved government and resume business as usual — just as they did when Muhyiddin resigned. Another exercise in futility.

That’s the state of the current Malay-majority politics: wheel and deal, no matter how shamelessly, as long as MPs and assemblypersons can stay in government.

If elected officials believe they can muster a majority to topple a sitting government, there is only one thing to do: Wait for the Dewan Rakyat or state assembly to convene and seek a no-confidence vote. If that fails, vote against the Agong’s or Sultan’s address or any money bill or the Budget. Don’t announce you are resigning. That position could change. Instead, use your vote.

The government automatically falls and it triggers the constitutional process to form the new government — in the Dewan Rakyat or state assembly. Everything falls into place according to the constitution. The decisions made would be legal, binding and indisputable. There would be no need to speak to the Agong or Sultans or engage in deals outside of the Dewan Rakyat just so elected officials can be in government. The instability that comes from wheeling and dealing will be eliminated.

So, elected officials, a little advice to you: If you want to topple a government, do it discreetly and decisively without any room for failure and that can happen only in the Dewan Rakyat. MPs must hold themselves to the gold standard of operating according to the constitution. The people deserve nothing less.

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.