PAS, AG should not ‘merepek’ about confidence vote

‘MEREPEK’ is street Malay for “nonsense”. That is what PAS is doing – talking nonsense that the appointment of the prime minister by the Agong is final and unquestionable for the whole duration of his tenure.

Unfortunately, Attorney-General Idrus Harun is lending his ‘legal’ weight to PAS by saying the same thing.

Why is the AG stooping so low, delving into the political arena (outside the scope of his office) to support what clearly is wrong and amounts to an attempt to subvert the power of Parliament to be the final arbiter of whether the PM commands the confidence of the majority of MPs in Parliament?

The three provisions in the federal constitution that are cited by both PAS and the AG are not vague, or written in language that ordinary persons cannot understand or make out their meaning.

They cannot mean something else to honest legal and political minds. If they do, it is wilfully done to mislead people. In that case, where is ‘maruah’ (dignity)?

Article 43(2) of the constitution says: “The Cabinet shall be appointed as follows, that is to say: (a) the Agong shall first appoint as prime minister, to preside over the cabinet, a member of the House of Representatives who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House.”

The appointment is made in an oath taking ceremony before the Agong as provided for in Article 43(6).

The AG is interpreting, or twisting, the oath taking ceremony to mean it confers “permanent” status to the appointed person.

He is trying to hoodwink Malaysians that an appointment made under this article is irrevocable (Idrus said that on August 21, the new prime minister took his oath of office before the Agong according to Article 43(6) of the federal constitution. – Bernama, September 5, 2021.)

If Idrus is right, then there is no need for Article 43(4). So, can he tell us the circumstances when Article 43(4) comes into use?

The important defining words in Article 43(2) are: “…who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House”.

Thus, the Agong at the time of appointing the prime minister is not himself 100% sure that the appointee commands the confidence of the majority.

He appoints the person believing that the person is capable of commanding the confidence of the majority.

In the present case, the Agong came to his belief based on the statutory declarations presented to him. These were actually fake as they did not  represent the personal views of the individuals but that of their political bosses.

Don’t forget that there is such a thing as a party whip hanging over the heads of party members.

While they are given some space by their parties to speak their minds, when it comes to voting they are not allowed to vote freely but what the party wants.

So, the declarations might as well have been given by the party heads instead of by individuals. What a waste of time it was for the king to have to call them up and ask them individually because they were only stating the stand of their parties.

The party whip was the coercion or duress that they were under. Did the Agong overlook this when he called them up to hear it from their individual mouths?

The culture of making declarations to send up to the Royal Palace to convince the monarchy of “majority support” is a big mockery and should be stopped.

Did the Federal Court not consider the effect of the whip when it ruled that declarations could be used (Federal Court case of Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin v Zambry Abdul Kadir (Attorney General, Intervener) [2010] 2 MLJ 285 (the “Perak Case”)?

The appointment made by the Agong based on declarations is good only for the swearing-in ceremony conducted under Article 43(6).

The declarations do not say that the signatory promises to extend his support to the prime minister for the full duration of his tenure. Even if such a promise is made, is it enforceable? How?

Why is there an Article 43(4) in the constitution in the first place? Neither the AG nor PAS have explained this.

This article states: “ If the prime minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then unless at prime minister’s request the Agong dissolves Parliament, the prime minister shall tender the resignation of the cabinet”.

The presence of this Article 43(4) is evidence that an appointment made under Articles 43(2) and 43(6) is neither conclusive of majority support nor irrevocable by a vote in the House. I challenge the AG to dispute this.

Article 43(4) states “if the prime minister…”. It does not state when, and therefore can only mean at any time. This can be on the first day Parliament sits, or any time during the Parliamentary session or term.

If what the AG and PAS want the public at large to believe (because it comes from people in authority) that once appointed the prime minister’s position is unquestionable, the drafters of the constitution would have clearly stated that. Then Article 43(4) becomes superfluous, redundant.

What a shame that these provisions of the constitution are being torn apart by PAS with the backing of the “legal authority” of the AG so that a vote of confidence is prevented from taking place in order for the prime minister to enjoy “permanent, irrevocable” status until the next general election.

Should a prime minister not command respect of the House by putting his popularity to the test?

It’s like a concerted attempt to turn a democratic system into an authoritarian state. – September 7, 2021.

* Ravinder Singh reads The Malaysian Insight.

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

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  • They eat too much kerepek ubi kayu

    Posted 1 month ago by DENGKI KE? · Reply