Brown Will Never Be White

Alec Douglas-Home, Boris Johnson and Muhyiddin Yassin

The UK’s centre-left newspaper The Guardian has made a scathing attack on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s decision to appoint Muhyiddin Yassin as Malaysia’s 8th Prime Minister.

The attack was made in an editorial and reeks of rancid prejudice by accusing His Majesty of executing a ‘royal coup’ that had helped topple the PH government.

The editorial however failed to explain that it is the constitutional prerogative of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to choose a member of the Dewan Rakyat who in his judgment, commands the confidence of the House, as Prime Minister. And in his judgment at that point of time, it was Muhyiddin who had the most support – the most goal scored before the final whistle was blown.

It was impossible to keep the circus going without dragging the whole nation down both economically as well as security. Tensions were high at that point and public order had to be protected. As sovereign, it is the duty of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to also end the circus to maintain peace and order for the public good. This was the judgment in para 226 Dato’ Dr Zambry v Dato’ Seri Nizar [2009] 5 CLJ 265.

The editorial should also know that Queen Elizabeth II had had two Prime Ministers whose appointments were controversial and did not have the support of the majority of the House of Commons.

The Queen appointed Sir Alec Douglas-Home to succeed Harold Macmillan ,who was ill and resigned in 1963, denying the popular Rab Butler’s chance of becoming the PM. The Queen was accused of colluding with Macmillan to have Douglas-Home appointed without the process of a leadership election.

Buckingham Palace made it clear then that the choice for a new PM should come from the Tories alone, a very highly unusual advice, maintaining a process called ‘You Choose, We Send For’. There was no consultation whatsoever with Labour or other political parties.

As a matter of fact Boris Johnson’s government is still without majority support in Parliament!

Therefore, why is it so wrong for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to go by the Federal Constitution, interviewed every single MP, consulted the other Rulers, before making the decision to appoint Muhyiddin? He went by the book to make sure he correctly appoints his Prime Minister who will be heading His Majesty’s government!

Is it because we can never be right if we go by the book because we are not white?

When Wisdom And Maturity Win

His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong

The political crisis started a long way back with one man thinking that the seat of the Prime Minister should be handed to him, while the incumbent felt that he should hold on to it for as long as possible. There was no Malay, Chinese, Indian, Jawi, UEC or Adib involved in the whole fiasco.

When His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong stepped in to solve the crisis, there were as many calls for the Parliament to be dissolved as there were for the incumbent to handover the premiership to his so-called designated successor. I wrote to friends the following:

“The Raja is the landowner. It is the constitutional prerogative of the Raja to choose whom in his judgment should lead the administration of HIS government. Our duty every five years or so is to vote for those whom we think should represent us. That is where our responsibility ends.”

His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong did exactly that – solving the crisis according to what is accorded to him in the Federal Constitution. With the two warring parties claiming the right to the premiership, political parties went back and forth changing their allegiance to each of the party who in turn claimed that he has the most support.

His Majesty went on to call each MP for a private interview trying to see who supports whom. And many got trapped in that simple but virtually meaningless definition of ‘majority support’ thinking that the candidate with the most support should become the Prime Minister. However, there is nothing in the Federal Constitution that gives such provision.

Article 43 (2) (a) of the Federal Constitution states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint as Perdana Menteri 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 the House. In other words, exact number of support for any of the candidate is not a requirement for a decision to be made by His Majesty. The interview is only for him to gauge the level of support each candidate has.

The method used is similar to the ones used in Perak by the late Sultan Azlan Shah, and in Kedah several years later, to determine who can command the confidence of the most of the Dewan to become the respective States’ Menteri Besar. In all three crises, the maturity and wisdom of the Ruler is incumbent (Dr Zambry v Dato’ Seri Nizar [2009]5 CLJ 265) para 232. The method to determine the issue of “majority support” is the prerogative of the Ruler and is non-justiciable (op cit).

It is in my opinion that “majority support” was determined by the total number of MPs from any one bloc. There was the Anwar bloc – MPs who wanted Anwar to become the next PM. Then there was the Mahathir bloc – people who wanted the elder statesman to continue. And we had the Muhyiddin bloc – those who solidly supported Muhyiddin’s candidacy. Both the Anwar and Mahathir bloc had to combine to challenge Muhyiddin’s number of support. But whether they like the other bloc’s candidate that they were forced to accept is questionable. Hence, the one with the most unambiguous support would be Muhyiddin.

No one else has the right to choose a Prime Minister. The right claimed by Anwar Ibrahim to become a Prime Minister, and the so-called promise by Mahathir to hand over the premiership to the former, are against the Federal Constitution. Only the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has that right, as prescribed in Article 40 (2) of the Federal Constitution. Conventions are not laws, and are therefore not legal. It is because of this illegal promise that got us into this trouble last week.

Even after the announcement by Istana Negara on the swearing-in ceremony of Malaysia’s 8th Prime Minister was made, there is still talks of numbers and majority made by the other party. But what is the point of scoring 50 goals after the final whistle was blown? And going back to Article 43 (2)(a) where it is the Constitutional prerogative of the King to choose an MP as the PM whom in his judgment commands the confidence of the member of the House, such SDs carry no weight whatsoever. It was just an attempt to create negative perception about the wisdom of the King.

We are certainly blessed to have a wise King who made full use of his rights in the Constitution and his freedom to consult to settle this chaos. Despite taking precedence above all other persons in the Federation, His Majesty did not forget to consult all the other Rulers. After all, he represents all the Rulers. And he stood his Constitutional ground, gentlemanly, when others did not.