Constitution must be followed even in times of crises


THE Malaysian Bar views with concern the events that have taken place over the past several weeks, which have led to much political uncertainty in this country. During these dire times, with the Covid-19 pandemic at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the Malaysian Bar is perturbed with the political turmoil and constitutional gridlock in the face of the pandemic.

Pursuant to Article 43(2) of the federal constitution, the king shall appoint as prime minister to preside over the cabinet, a member of the Dewan Rakyat or House of Representatives (House), who in his majesty’s judgment, is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House.

The question that arises now is how a lack of confidence is to be measured and to be expressed. One of the primary options is by way of voting on the floor of the House. While the Speaker of the House decides on the order of business of the House, a motion of no-confidence filed by members of Parliament under Standing Orders 26 and 27 after 14 days of notice, ought to be given priority by virtue of convention. Such a motion is implicit to Article 43(4) of the constitution, which provides for a situation if and when a prime minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the House.

Alternatively, under Standing Order 14(2) of the Dewan Rakyat, the House may at any time, upon a motion moved by a minister, proceed ahead before any other course of business of the House. It should also be noted that pursuant to Standing Order 18 of the Dewan Rakyat, a private member with the leave of the Speaker of the House, is able to introduce a motion when it is a definite matter of urgent public importance. After all, according to Article 62(1) of the constitution, each House of Parliament shall regulate its own procedure. 

A prime minister who is confronted with a vote of no confidence has several options – he can either counter the opposition’s motion of no confidence by initiating his own motion of confidence to prove that he has support. Alternatively, he could advise the king to consider Article 55(2) of the constitution to prorogue or dissolve Parliament. The king has the discretion, as provided for under Article 40(2) of the constitution, to agree or refuse to dissolve Parliament.  This option allows his majesty to explore other possibilities enshrined in the constitution. 

In light of the current political upheaval, the Malaysian Bar calls on all parties to have due regard to the constitutional framework of our country, and most importantly, the welfare and wellbeing of the people should remain as the priority in everyone’s minds. – October 18, 2020.

* Salim Bashir is president of the Malaysian Bar.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.


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