Agong remaining above the fray allows Malaysia taking the cue from Commonwealth jurisdiction for stable government not based on numbers game in Parliament!
Commentary And Analysis . . . It may be less than ideal if minority government as the polls winners takes centre stage almost permanently, and/or for years, in Parliament. However, that may be the enduring reality in more ways than one on the immediate way forward. Patently, Agong will be swearing in any number of post-election coalition as the new reality for the foreseeable future.
Malaysia, ever since GE14 on 9 May 2018, hasn’t seen one party and/or even pre-election coalition taking simple majority in Parliament. The country must let the past go. Otherwise, the people will never be free. Intelligence remains the ability for learning from mistakes.
It’s highly unlikely that snap election, every few months, will see the people voting for strong government. Hung Parliament, undeterred by rhetorics and polemics on ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) and Malaysia Tanah Melayu (Malay land), has caught up with Malaysia. It’s the rule of law, the basis of the Constitution, that matters.
The politics in Malaya, being split down the middle, has brought the former British Borneo into the picture on formation of government in Putrajaya based on Mantra, “siapa menang, kami sokong” or “whoever wins the government in Putrajaya, we support”. The bottomline is that some parties and leaders in Malaya will never get the support of the Other Malaysia even if there’s blessing from Agong.
Agong decreed after GE15 that SD (statutory declaration) wasn’t proof of support. It was exercise in futility when Agong considered SD before the formation of two backdoor “Malay” government on 1 March 2020 and 21 August 2021. Agong advised both Prime Minister on seeking support in Parliament by confidence vote.
Instead, Tan Sri Muhyiddin — Mahiaddin in birth cert — relied on Agong for Parliament’s support on the Budget. Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri signed MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on confidence and supply (CSA) agreement. Muhyiddin was brought down by 14 rebel Umno lawmakers. Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh supported the 14 lawmakers but withheld the vote.
Dictatorial former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s wet dreams on strong government cannot simply wish away the Anwar Ibrahim government which probably has more time on its side. Anwar will be 76 years old this August, Mahathir will be 99 years old on July 10. The birth certificate states December 20. So, Mahathir may have been twice-born like many illegal immigrants in Sabah.
Anwar’s political enemies, the long arm of the law having caught up with them, are busy with court cases which will see them moved out of the way. The system may co-opt political rivals singing for their supper. Anwar, if shove comes after push, can neutralise political party leaders and remove them from the equation. He can, may and probably will form government of lawmakers pledging undivided loyalty. The lawmakers can remain with their respective political parties on both sides of the divide in Parliament. Anwar can field those dropped by their political party.
The people are equally united in some ways and perhaps equally divided in other ways. Agong may note that it’s an idea whose time has come as politics and government in Malaysia struggles with maturity beyond divisive issues, clannishness, tribalism and feudalism driven by the old ways viz. “racism”, bigotry, xenophobia, prejudice and hate promoted by strong political personality cults like Mahathirism under the guise of democracy as euphemism.
True, there can be legislation, truncated or otherwise, which imposes fixed term government. However, such government would be undemocratic and unsustainable.
The Opposition can test the government on every Bill and make it unworkable. Eventually, the government can, may and will fall. The collapse and implosion would be inevitable.
It risks Agong, based on Article 39, assuming sole executive authority.
The Agong, taking the cue from the National Operations Council (NOC) in 1969, can swear in government with no Cabinet and no Prime Minister.
The unwritten/uncodified British Constitution, for example, mentions no Prime Minister and no Council of Ministers. The sole executive authority of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland rests in the King. The King delegates executive authority by administration. That facilitates the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers.
Likewise, the “monkey lawmakers” phenomenon in Malaysia can be ended by removing the Prime Minister and Cabinet from the Constitution. Already, the Constitution mentions no Deputy Prime Minister. Anyone, even a non-MP and non-Senator, can be Deputy Prime Minister. There can be no law on the matter.
The Johor Sultan, after ascending the singgahsana (ceremonial throne), may not hesitate on sole executive authority. Again, the Sultan has observed that lawmakers more often “behave like monkeys” and ignore the people’s suffering.
If the new Agong remains persuaded that lawmakers are monkeys obsessed with themselves, and full of themselves, Article 39 can, may, and will be invoked in the breach by the Istana. There’s always such a thing as the first time. It would be foolishness of the highest order if lawmakers, and government take things for granted and assume that it will be business as usual under the new Agong.
The Johor Sultan has already said that former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak should be released from jail if more people — read Mahathir — don’t join him. The Sultan said that no one, even at 100 years old, was too old to be in jail. It’s unlikely that Mahathir will see jail. It’s more likely that Najib will be freed, by Decree, either before 31 January or after that. The Johor Sultan becomes Agong on 31 January.
Mahathir has any number of laws against him viz. allegedly abuse of power, conflict of interest, criminal breach of trust based on “deriving personal benefits” arising from bribery and corruption, being party to illegalities on money laundering activities among others, the Sedition Act and even Treason.
It’s public knowledge that Mahathir said that he never agreed with Sultan. He alleged that Sultan would never protect Muslim as they preferred doing business with the Chinese diaspora from whom they can get money. He further alleged that the Johor Sultan, specifically, sold land for RM4b to people in China. Mahathir and Family risk consequences. Google! It’s in YouTube too.
The Najib initiated Royal Commission of Inquiry (2013) on illegal immigrants in Sabah, which convened over Mahathir’s protests, concluded that “the Projek IC Mahathir probably existed”. This may be hanging offence. Sabahan hope the Agong can bring closure on the controversy.
Agong, elsewhere, can simply disregard the numbers game and fall back on the caretaker Prime Minister getting first chance at forming the Cabinet. This approach can be tested in Parliament by secret ballot, show of hands or by voice vote as when Anwar was confirmed after GE15 last November. It’s highly unlikely that anyone would do better than the caretaker Prime Minister.
True, caretaker Prime Minister Najib did better than the Opposition in GE14, but unfortunately convention and protocol were breached. Najib could not turn up at the Istana and offer his resignation and/or offer to lead the government again. Mahathir, who had only 12 seats in Parliament and an Independent in tow, was sworn in as the 7th Prime Minister by reluctant Agong from Kelantan. The Agong abdicated within months.
It’s highly unlikely, once bitten twice shy, that there would be repeat of the “Najib moment”, come GE16 in late 2027. — NMH
Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez has been writing for many years on both sides of the Southeast Asia Sea. He should not be mistaken for a namesake formerly with the Daily Express in Kota Kinabalu. JF keeps a Blog under FernzTheGreat on the nature of human relationships.