Malaysiakini Letter

Learning from the Perak constitutional crisis

Koon Yew Yin  |  Published:  |  Modified:

As the next general election approaches, almost every day, the newspapers publish stories on Premier Najib Abdul Razak and other BN leaders giving away goodies to win votes.

Unfortunately Pakatan Rakyat leaders cannot afford to give away any goodies. Since the next general election is near, we must not forget how Pakatan lost control of Perak to BN.

You will remember that when the High Court on May 11, 2009 recognised Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin as the rightful Menteri Besar of Perak, the Court of Appeal lost no time in granting Zambry Abdul Kadir a stay of execution on the High Court decision. It did so within a few hours, in fact.

On May 22, the appellate court overturned the High Court judgment favouring Nizar, and instead ruled that Zambry is the legitimate Menteri Besar.

Malaysian courts have created a record with their supersonic speed in disposing cases.

The BN is so unfair and unjust to depend on three defectors to govern the state, especially when two of the three defectors were under investigation for corruption.

During the Perak constitutional crisis, I wrote a few articles in the hope of Pakatan winning back control of the government but in vain.

As a reminder, I think it is worthwhile to reproduce this excerpt.

"There are many contentious points in the Federal Court's ruling which have already been debated by other observers better versed in Malaysian constitutional law than me.

However, to me, perhaps the most contentious argument was that the sultan of Perak does not need to act on the advice of the executive council in the matter of dissolving the state legislative assembly and it was at his absolute discretion.

This argument which smacks of a system of absolute monarchy will take Perak and the country backwards rather than forward.

But let's assume that the Federal Court ruling on this is correct. Is this the end of the matter? In my humble opinion, no - and I would like reiterate that the only way out of the present legal quagmire is to return the vote to the people.

To safeguard the interest of the country and the institution of the monarchy, the voice and will of the rakyat must be respected. It has to be called on to be heard - in one way or another - because though the wheels of justice grind slowly, they grind exactingly.

To the letter of the law a government must be answerable, and the one standing above politics must be accountable as well. In my humble opinion, Perak will regain its shine and the people's trust when the sultan accedes to the dissolution of the state assembly."

As you all know Sultan Azlan Shah did not dissolve the state assembly.

My view is not an isolated one. A poll of registered voters in Perak conducted by the Merdeka Centre for Public Opinion on 8 February 2009 showed that:

  • 76 percent of respondents felt that "the people through elections" should decide who forms the government in Perak. The breakdown by race was 60 percent Malays, 88 percent Chinese and 98 percent Indians.

  • 74 percent of the respondents felt that the state assembly should have been dissolved after the defection of the three Pakatan lawmakers. The breakdown by race was 59 percent Malays, 85 percent Chinese and 88 percent Indians.
  • 68 percent of respondents said that the preferred option of settling the political crisis was either to hold three by-elections or state wide polls. The breakdown by race was 46 percent Malays, 88 percent Chinese and 80 percent Indians.
  • 66 percent of the respondents did not accept state governments formed through defections of state assemblypersons. The breakdown by race was 46 percent Malays, 87 percent Chinese and 73 per cent Indians.
  • 62 percent of the respondents felt that the "role of the palace in this decision" means that it does not recognise the will of the people.
  • 59 percent of the respondents felt that the political crisis in Perak would decrease support for BN.
  • Taken together, the poll by the Merdeka Centre suggests that Zambry and BN may occupy the seat of government but a significant number of the citizens of the state do not accept their legitimacy to hold power.

    Clearly, from the survey findings we can infer that while our politicians may have difficulties clinging onto principles and the democratic system, the rakyat knows right from wrong.

    They cannot stomach politicians who get voted into office on one party's ticket and then decide to jump ship, causing that party's popular state government to topple.

    They do not believe that the status of a government should be decided behind closed doors. And they want the sultan to use his ‘absolute discretion' to invoke the will of the people.

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