Comment: I join Perakians and my fellow Malaysians in wishing DYMM Sultan Perak Darul Ridzuan Happy 81st Birthday and congratulate His Royal Highness for his most eloquent speech at the investiture ceremony in Kuala Kangsar last Sunday (April 19).
Sultan Azlan Shah spoke about to the role of monarchy in modern Malaysia. However, my deepest respect for our Malay Rulers—PKR champions “Kedaulatan Raja-Raja Melayu”– and pure common sense prevent me from adding my comments to what Param Cumaraswamy writes in his article (below), which I fully endorse.
I note with deep regret that Perak remains ungovernable; Najib who engineered the political coup must be fully accountable for the political impasse, not the political oppostion. No one should blame Pakatan Rakyat for the present mess in the tin state.
The only practical solution is for His Royal Highness Sultan of Perak to dissolve the state assembly so that fresh elections can be held as soon as practicable. Let the people of Perak to decide by way of free and fair elections which party, Pakatan Rakyat (of PKR, PAS and DAP) or UMNO-Barisan Nasional, should form the next government. Both sides must then respect the choice of the rakyat.
I hope given His Royal Highness’ wide experience, wisdom and eloquence on matters relating our national constitution and the Rule of Law, Sultan Azlan Shah will see the merit of dissolving the state assembly to pave the way for elections.
We ordinary Malaysians know that the Perak crisis bears the imprimatur of Najib Tun Razak, our “One-Malaysia” Prime Minister, and his UMNO-BN strategists and backers. We also know that the decision of the Federal Court in the Zambry versus Sivakumar case is unconstitutional (see NH Chan’s article posted earlier in the blog). At the same time, UMNO-BN should also know that the recent by-election in Bukit Gantang is a referendum against Najib, in which Perakians gave Pakatan Rakyat (PAS)’s Dato Seri Ir. Mohamed Nizar Jamaluddin a strong mandate (by a larger majority) to represent in the 12 th Parliament.—Din Merican
April 20, 2009
A new dimension of constitutional monarchy?
by Param Cumaraswamy*
Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah has expressed his displeasure in no uncertain terms over comments and criticisms expressed by various quarters on the actions he took on Febraury 5 over the removal of Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as the Perak Menteri Besar and the appointment of Zambry Abd Kadir in his place.
While Sultan Azlan Shah’s remarks are understandable, there is, however, one matter which is of concern. That being his exposition, as reported in the media, that “the role of the constitutional monarchy goes beyond what is stipulated in the constitution”. And also (of the Sultan saying) “that rulers have a far wider responsibility ensuring that the spirit of the constitution, the philosophy behind the written law and the interests of the country and the people are safeguarded at all times”.
With respect, this new dimension of constitutional monarchy may be seen as far reaching. We have in this country nine sultans under nine separate state constitutions and one king under the federal constitution. Again with respect, if these heads of states begin to interpret their powers, rights, discretions and privileges under their respective constitutions in accordance with the ‘spirit of’ and ‘philosophy’ behind the constitutional provisions and framework, what becomes of any certainty in the constitutions?
Again with respect, how could rationality, reasonableness and consistency of the decisions on interpretations be secured? In that event the independent judicial review of such decisions will be inevitable. The institution of the monarchy may fall under the purview of the courts.
In this regard Sultan Azlan Shah’s own words in the judgment of the Federal Court in 1979 when he was acting Chief Justice (Malaya) regarding Sri Lempah is noteworthy.
He said, inter alia:
“Every legal power must have legal limits otherwise there is dictatorship. In particular it is a stringent requirement that a discretion should be exercised for a proper purpose, and that it should not be exercised unreasonably.In other words, every discretion cannot be free from legal restraint; where it is wrongly exercised, it becomes the duty of the courts to intervene.”
*PARAM CUMARASWAMY is a former Malaysian Bar president (1986 – 1988). He also served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers by the UN Commission on Human Rights from 1994 to 2003.