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On the fire line of constitutionality

  • Perhaps the uniqueness of Malaysia's constitutionality is that there has to be some sort of compromise from either side. Photo courtesy: Bernama

Sin Chew Daily

On the choice of new menteri besar, Johor's Sultan Ibrahim said, “Don't meddle in the state's affairs because this sovereign state still has a Sultan... I will make the best decision in the interest of my subjects when the time comes.”

If I have not misinterpreted the Sultan, he meant to say that it was the Sultan's power to appoint a menteri besar and outsiders should not meddle.

Wait a minute! Let's here what prime minster Tun Mahathir has to say about this.

He said the choice of menteri besar was determined by “the party which won the election, not the royal family”.

He also said the country was practicing a system of constitutional monarchy, not absolute monarchy, and that Malaysia would not be a democratic country if the PM or MB was picked by the rulers.

If I have not misinterpreted the PM, he meant to say that the appointment of menteri besar was the jurisdiction of the ruling party.

Indeed, on the issue of MB appointment, Mahathir put it very forthright that the Sultan “has no role in it”.

Both the PM and Sultan have been very firm in their opposing positions, and it looks like there is not much space for compromise from either side.

The choice of new menteri besar is a very sensitive and important thing. Of course, this is not the first time such an issue has surfaced.

The appointment of several former MBs -- from Abdul Ghani Othman, Khaled Nordin to Osman Sapian -- could only become reality after rounds of negotiations and compromise.

Unlike in the past, negotiations were done behind the scene and were hardly laid before public eyes in a bid to preserve the existing “harmonious” relationship and avert possible political turmoil.

Things are quite different this time. There were already crossfires even before the incumbent MB Osman Sapian handed in his resignation letter.

As a matter of fact, what many people see is that Osman quit because of his failure in handling the Sungai Kim Kim contamination incident and overall poor performance.

What many don't see is the reality that Osman is himself sandwiched between the federal administration and Johor's royal family since the day he became MB.

There has been a fair deal of squabbles between both sides: Iskandar Malaysia, Forest City, KL-Singapore HSR project, Pulau Kukup, STS hub..

Osman found himself sandwiched between the two sides when they exchanged fires. No matter how he handled each of the issues, he wouldn't get the approval from either the federal government or the royal family.

It is within anticipation that he has opted for an early exit.

The thing is, his resignation has not mitigated the confrontation but has spawned new problems.

The new MB favored by the federal government must be one who can carry out Putrajaya's policies while the Sultan prefers someone who will do things as the royal family pleases.

Scholars and members of the public are of the view that the appointment of menteri besar should be carried out as per the Constitution, which is absolutely right.

The thing is, there is this disputable grey area.

Johor's constitution has stated that it is the Sultan's jurisdiction to appoint the MB, but the candidate must also win the trust of majority of state assemblymen.

In other words, the power to appoint the MB is not exclusive to either party: the ruling party can recommend a candidate and the Sultan can also decide the candidate who is among the people recommended by the state's ruling party.

Perhaps the uniqueness of Malaysia's constitutionality is that there has to be some sort of compromise from either side.


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