Malaysiakini NEWS

Can the Agong act to depose a sitting PM?

Hafiz Yatim  |  Published:  |  Modified:

While in Malaysia, impeachment proceedings to bring down a public official suspected of misconduct are non-existent, this is possible in other democracies, such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

 

In the US, President Richard Nixon faced impeachment proceedings following the Watergate scandal, but chose to resign from office.

Another president, Bill Clinton, was nearly impeached following the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

 

In the UK, Prime Minister Tony Blair was nearly impeached in 2004 for high crime and misdemeanours following evidence of collusion between him and President George W Bush regarding the attack on Iraq.

 

Following the bombshell revelations by The Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report on Friday, that US$700 million was allegedly transferred from 1MDB to the accounts of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak ( photo ), there have been many calls from the opposition and non-government organisations for Najib to step down, to facilitate a thorough and transparent investigation.

 

Last Friday, constitutional expert Abdul Aziz Bari suggested that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong monitors developments following the WSJ report.

“If the Agong seems not firm enough to handle the matter, the Conference of Rulers can step in.

 

“As the guardian of the Federal Constitution, they (the King and the rulers) cannot just rely on what Najib has to say, especially in light of what WSJ has just reported,” Aziz told Malaysiakini .

A special task force comprising the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), police and Bank Negara personnel, has been set up to investigate the allegations against Najib.

 

Perak constitutional crisis

 

Ironically, the way the Perak constitutional crisis - said to be engineered by Najib - was solved, could be used against him.

 

Despite criticism over the manner it was used, the Federal Court determined that it was legitimate for the late Sultan Azlan Muhibuddin Shah to inquire who had the majority without going to the legislature.

 

Asked whether a similar policy as stamped by the apex court could be imposed on Najib, where the Agong or Conference of Rulers could step in, lawyer, Razlan Hadri Zulkifli ( photo ) told Malaysiakini that it was possible.

 

“In Perak, the then sultan purportedly ascertained the loss of confidence in then-menteri besar Mohamad Nizar Jamaluddin by interviewing the BN representatives and representatives from Pakatan who jumped ship.

“The Agong must have similar evidence, of not only the loss of confidence of MPs in Najib, but ascertain that there is confidence in another sitting MP."

The Perak constitutional crisis of 2009 saw three Pakatan assemblypersons, two from PKR and one from DAP, jumping ship, leading to Nizar's removal in running the state, short of a year after being elected, due to a loss in majority.

 

Constitutional steps

 

However, former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram, who is now back in legal practice, said the Agong cannot do that without going through constitutional steps.

 

“First, there must be a motion of no-confidence against the premier. Second, the premier must tender his resignation and that of his cabinet to the Agong.

“Third, the PM must advise the Agong to dissolve Parliament and call for an election.

"Fourth, at this juncture the Agong has personal discretion to either dissolve Parliament or accept the PM's resignation and call for someone whom in his opinion, commands the confidence of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat.

 

“If he does the latter, a new prime minister may be appointed,” Gopal ( photo ) told Malaysiakini.

 

Incidentally, Gopal was not one of the judges who heard the Perak constitutional crisis case of 2009/2010.

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