As I mentioned in this morning post Lim Kit Siang opened Royal Pandora Box? a State ruler cannot reject the candidate forwarded by the party with the winning majority (by itself or in a formal or informal coalition) for his approval, save where there is perceivable concerns the candidate has a dodgy record or perhaps is infirmed, or the coalition isn’t politically stable, which may affect the proposed candidate’s ability to head the State government.
Professor Shad Faruqi, a constitutional law expert, pointed out clearly while the rulers have the constitutional rights to approve the appointment of MBs, they should NOT be involved in politics and do NOT have absolute discretion in making their choices, and ought not to allow personal feelings to colour their judgments.
Yes, those rulers should accept the political parties’ choices, save in the most obvious case of a candidate who's mentally, physically or legally unfit to head the administration, or where the coalition he/she heads isn’t stable enough to endure the term until the next state election.
But frighteningly, from a constitutional point, Malaysiakini has reported that the Sultan of Terengganu may well be going too far, based on the yardstick that Prof Shad has advised.
HRH hasn’t been impressed with the former MB, Idris Jusoh and has indicated through his state's Regency Advisory Council (his son is only 11 years old) that he wants a different person. His unhappiness with Idris Jusoh has been about the heavy-handed police action leading to the Batu Buruk riot on Sept 8 last year. HRH believed such a domestic brouhaha could have been managed without the use of live bullets.
Then HRH is also unhappy with the police teargas-ing PAS supporters on polling day in Rusila. The palace reckons Idris Jusoh’s administration had influenced the police to act in such drastic fashion.
Of course there is the additional issue of Idris Jusoh behaving with ‘apparent cockiness’, acting as though he was the sultan, making decisions unilaterally without consulting the royal household.
Well … of course, given the Sultan concerns, HRH has the right to inform the winning political party, BN-UMNO, or even the PM of his dissatisfaction with Idris Jusoh as the State’s MB.
But what concerns me as a citizen of this nation, which is a constitutional monarchy with a Westminster parliamentary system, has been the Malaysiakini report that the palace (meaning the Sultan) has summoned the state representatives to consider the palace’s preferred candidate, and to seek their support for the Sultan’s man, believed to be Ahmad Said, the Kemaman Umno division chief.
I hope those UMNO jokers know their constitutional law and would politely decline HRH suggestion. It may well be that with Idris Jusoh as a non-starter, the Sultan’s man may eventually be selected to be the next MB, but that is not the point.
The point is what Prof Shad has advised: While a State ruler has the constitutional right to approve the appointment of the MB, he should NOT be involved in politics and do NOT have absolute discretion in making his choice (in other words, he cannot demand that his preferred candidate be the MB). HRH should also not allow personal feelings to colour his judgments.
Most important of all, he should consult the PM as well. I reckon some royalties might have sensed a weak PM in his current political setback and are clawing back some of their lost pre-Merdeka prerogatives.
Through 'divide and conquer'?
I consider the Sultan's assertive action, in selecting his own preferred candidate for the MB's post, is constitutionally dangerous for Malaysian citizens, regardless of our ethnicity, religion or political affiliations; we can't afford to allow royalty to interfere directly with such political preserves; it's like usurping the people's democratic rights.
I like to see some bipartisan response especially from both PAS' Nik Aziz and Anwar Ibrahim, but alas, with a de facto PKR leader in an (childish by Western standards) acrimonious relationship with the BN, in particular UMNO, selfish partisanship may rule the day. Lim Kit Siang as a non Malay should preferably stay clear of this very sensitive issue, lest it worsens in the current critical period.
But it's likely that, apart from PAS and PKR partisan stand, greed among some of the State's UMNO MPs ('divide & conquer') compounded by the traditional Malay blind obedience a la Hang Tuah to HRH, may see the constitutionally undesired come about. It'll then be a humongous loss to Malaysian democracy.