The post-election period has brought into focus matters pertaining to the powers of our monarchy under the law. The question as to who actually has the power to appoint the menteri besar plus the qualification of a menteri besar comes to light. I would like to highlight the following questions and answers relating to the powers of our monarchy with reference to the state of Terengganu :
Question 1: Who has power to appoint the menteri besar of Terengganu.
Answer: His Royal Highness, the Sultan of Terengganu.
Question 2 : What is the criteria to become MB of Terengganu?
Answer: Under Article 10 of the constitution of Terengganu (first part), the Sultan appoints a menteri besar who fulfils the following criteria: ‘He is of the Malay race and professes the Muslim religion’ and ‘who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of members of the assembly’ [Article 14 (2) (a)]
Question 3 : Can his royal highness forego/dispense of the above criteria?
Answer: Yes, under article 14 (4) of the Terengganu constitution, it says: ‘In appointing a mentri besar, His Royal Highness may, in his discretion, dispense with any provision in Article 10 restricting his choice of a mentri besar, if, in his opinion, it is necessary to do so in order to comply with the provisions of this article’.
Question 4: Who advises His Royal Highness?
Answer: The advisors to His Royal Highness under the state constitution are divided into three:
1. The state executive council [Article 12(1)]
2. Any person or body of persons that may be specified [Article 12 (1a)]
3. The State Council for Religion and Malay Customs (Article 4)
Question 5: Is His Royal Highness, in the exercise of his functions, bound to accept and act upon such advice?
Answer: Yes, under Article 12 (1) and (1a) it says: ‘His Royal Highness shall act in accordance with the advice of the state executive council’ and ‘His Royal Highness shall accept and act in accordance with such advice’.
Question 6: Does this mean that His Royal Highness has no discretionary powers in exercising his authority?
Answer: No. His Royal Highness still retains his ‘discretion’ in the performance of the following functions as per Article 12(2) of the state constitution:
1. The appointment of the state’s menteri besar;
2. The withholding of consent to a request for the dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly;
3. The making of a request for a meeting of the Conference of Rulers concerned with the privileges, position, honours and dignities of their Royal Highnesses or religious acts, observances or ceremonies;
4. Any function as Head of the Muslim religion or relating to customs of the Malays;
5. The appointment of an heir or heirs, consort, Regent or the Council of Regency;
6. The appointment of persons to Malay customary ranks, titles, honours and dignities and the designation of the functions appertaining thereto; and
7. The regulation of the royal court and palaces.
Moreover Article 12 (3) provides that the state has no powers to make laws requiring His Royal Highness to act only after consultation with or on recommendation of any person or body of persons in the exercise of the above functions.
This means that the Sultan still retains some form of discretionary powers which include the appointment of the menteri besar. This provision is in line with Article 14 (4) which states that the Sultan may dispense with the requirement of Article 10 which requires that the menteri besar be a Malay and commands the confidence of the majority of the state legislative assembly.