Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Will the public forget the day the constitution was pushed aside?

MARCH 2 – Here is a piece of advice for Perak State Assembly Speaker V Sivakumar: throw away the Perak Constitution.

Forget about the by-laws and Standing Order 89 which gives the speaker the final say in any interpretation of the legislature’s orders.

And stop being naïve about the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature, or for that matter, lofty democratic values.

The battle of Perak is all about politics. The law and the constitution count for little. Today’s events seem to suggest that the two trends in vogue in the Silver State are: the ends justify the means and might is right.

There was a flurry of activity and statements today, 24 hours before an emergency sitting of the state assembly was called by Sivakumar.

In the morning, Perak executive councillor Mohd Zahid Abdul Khalid served a notice of misconduct on the Speaker, referring him to the Rights and Privileges Committee.

And who is the head of the Rights and Privileges Committee? Sivakumar.

His alleged offence: violating Article 47 of the state constitution. The article states that an assemblyman taking oath must swear to preserve and defend the state constitution and bear true allegiance to the Sultan of Perak.

Even by the strange happenings in Perak since the defection of three Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers last month, this gambit by Mohd Zahid was odd, and it smacked of desperation.

But more was to follow. This evening, the State Secretary’s office issued a circular informing all staff to cancel all appointments on Wednesday as the main entrance to the building would be closed. The circular did not elaborate on why the entrance would be locked. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the state assembly is situated

within the State Secretariat.

By now the public must have been wondering why the executive was getting involved in affairs of the legislature.

Then came the intervention of the Perak Chief Police Officer. Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah said that, according to the state assembly secretary, the emergency meeting called by Sivakumar was invalid because it had not received the consent of the Sultan.

Now, on whose authority was the state assembly secretary passing judgment on the validity of the emergency assembly meeting?

The rules state that the assembly secretary must take orders from the Speaker.

Also, legal experts point out that Sivakumar does not require the consent of the Sultan to call the emergency meeting as the current session is not prorogued.

But really all these legal arguments, Standing Orders and fine principles only matter if the political players are willing to abide by them.

The evidence from Perak suggests that Barisan Nasional wants to cling on to power by any and all means.

They are counting on the people of Perak having short memories. They are confident that the anger and disgust that some voters feel today at the tactics employed by BN will be long forgotten the next time general elections are held.

Perhaps, once again, they are underestimating the Malaysian voter. The BN paid a high price on March 8 2008 for believing that the promise of more good years of economic growth could dim the anger and disappointment Malaysians were feeling.

About Zakaria Deros; the fighting talk of the Umno assembly in 2006; the impotence of the MIC and MCA; the breakdown in law and order and the weak leadership of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Despite the promise of political stability and economic development, Malaysians did not forget on March 8.

Who is to say that the public will forget the day the Perak Constitution was pushed aside? - Malaysia Insider

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