January 23, 2016
Kedah Menteri Besar and The State Constitution
by Dr. Gurdial Singh Nijhar
The Man of the Moment (Front Row-Center)
Legal queries have been raised on the stand taken by the division heads of a political party, declaring their lack of support for the Menteri Besar (MB) of Kedah.
Their expression of loss of confidence has no legal significance. The matter can only be resolved by the governing law – which is the Laws of the Constitution of Kedah (LN. 32/1959).
The state constitution makes clear the following:
1. An MB is appointed on the basis that he commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the state legislative assembly.
2. He can only be removed if he ceases to command that confidence. This must be shown by a vote taken at the assembly. The decision is made by a simple majority.
3. If a majority vote in favour of the motion of loss of confidence, then the MB can do one of two things:
a. He can request the Ruler to dissolve the legislative assembly. Then a general election of the state must be held within 60 days of the dissolution.
b. If the Ruler does not do so (it is in the Ruler’s discretion whether to do so or not), the MB then tenders the resignation of the entire Executive Council (in effect the state cabinet).
c. The Ruler then appoints an MB who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the assembly.
4. When the Ruler is the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) – as is the case in Kedah now – his functions are carried out by a Regent or Council of Regency. The Regent or the Council would have been appointed by the Ruler when he was elected to be the YDPA.
When the assembly is not sitting or convened in accordance with its Standing Rules – then it is unclear whether the Regent has the power to make a decision, whether or not the MB no longer commands the confidence of the majority.
One view is that he has such power. But this view is not free from contestation.
* Gurdial Singh Nijar is Professor, Law Faculty, Universiti Malaya.