Saturday, April 25, 2009

How to avoid a political crisis... just go back to the people - Malaysiakini

Hafiz Yatim | Apr 25, 09 6:08pm

No British monarch has rejected an application to dissolve its parliament, and similarly in Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah should have dissolved the state legislative assembly when ousted menteri besar Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin made an application.

Constitutional lawyer, Tommy Thomas said throughout British history there was never any attempts made by the monarchy to reject a prime minister's application to dissolve the parliament.

He said this at a forum held at the Bar Council titled: "Perak Crisis: Constitutional, Legal or Political".

Thomas noted that throughout Commonwealth history there was only one instance when the Canadian governor, Lord Julian Byng, did not accede to the request of its Prime Minister Arthur Meigen to dissolve parliament following an impending vote of no-confidence.

"It resulted in somewhat undesirable effect akin to what we see in Perak. To avert a crisis, it is wise for the rulers to accede to a request to a dissolution like in the Perak matter," Thomas noted.

Snap elections will resolve the issue

"When there is a political problem and when faced with possible constitutional problems, go back to the people. You will never go wrong," he said.

As in the case of Perak, Thomas said although we have a constitutional monarchy and they have the prerogative, questions are being raised over what if they (royalty) are wrong in not approving the dissolution.

Hence, the senior lawyer said to prevent such a scenario, it would be wise to go back to the people.

"Let them decide whether they want Pakatan Rakyat or Barisan Nasional," he said, adding the Perak impasse should not have to go through the courts and that there should have been snap elections to resolve the present scenario.

Besides him, the other panelists were senior lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Aliran exco member and economist Dr Subramaniam Pillay.

Approximately 100 people attended the forum which was moderated by Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan.

Subramaniam calls for anti-hopping law

Aliran exco member, Subramaniam called on the government to have an anti-hopping law as he said voters selected their elected representatives based on their party affiliations.

Subramaniam, who happens to be from Perak and is not a lawyer unlike the two, said by having such laws it could help avert such a crisis.

"If our elected representatives decide to change party, a by-election should have been called as they would be made answerable to the public and avoid such a scenario," he said.

He also questioned the independence of the Election Commission and the judiciary when dealing with matters pertaining to Pakatan Rakyat.

"It seems they have become a tool of the ruling BN government," he said.

Pointing to the judiciary, Subramaniam said he cannot understand the haste of the judges in hearing the Perak matter and that he had lost hope on the impartiality of the country's courts.

"It should be allowed to go through the normal process of having the application heard at the High Court, then Court of Appeal and then the Federal Court," he said.

Vital to have an independent judiciary

"Why bring the matter directly to the apex court when the matter have yet to be decided by the High Court where the application is filed," asked Subramaniam.

Subramaniam, who is also an economist, pointed out that an independent judiciary is vital to attract foreign investments as the court is the last bastion to handle disputes.

On the EC, the Aliran exco member noted the task before the commission was to hold elections and it should not be questioning whether it was wise for one to be held, he said in referring to the expected Penanti by-election.

Subramaniam also questioned why the resignation letters of Mohd Osman Jailu (Changkat Jering), Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang) and Hee Yit Foong were not accepted. Being adults they should have known what they were signing into and should have been held liable for it.

The Aliran exco member noted that despite the uncertainty surrounding the Perak issue, the people have got to know the constitutional law matter better and also PAS and DAP who were once bitter enemies had managed to bond well together.

"This point is important, (a moderate PAS and DAP) working together, as this would form a strong basis for a two-party system in the country," he said

"BN also have to buck up to ensure they remain in power in Perak. As for Pakatan, consisting of PAS, DAP and PKR, the episode would result in the coalition growing stronger and it would be a viable alternative come the next general election," he said.

Shafee: May 7 would be a chaotic day

Meanwhile, Shafee the other lawyer on the panel, was asked what the public can expect to see on May 7 (when the Perak assembly have its seating). He replied: "Chaos".

"Can you imagine what would happen on that day if the Sultan of Perak comes and he would be greeted by two menteris besar. Or what if the Perak speaker decide to banish Zambry Abdul Kadir (BN menteri besar) and his exco members or the three assemblypersons."

"Fortunately, there may not be live coverage because if there is, people will be glued to their televisions," he joked.

Shafee, who had represented Umno in numerous cases also pointed out that the apparent resignation letters signed by the three assemblyperson should not have been accepted.

He said they signed under duress and questions are being raised whether the speaker had consulted them before handing over the resignation letters.

"The speaker should have asked the three elected assemblypersons before submitting their resignations," he said.

Shafee also pointed out the suspension order meted to Zambry and his exco were different from that of Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo.

"The Speaker V Sivakumar never brought their suspension before the house and hence the 18 months and 12 months suspension was wrong. In Gobind's case, the matter was brought before the house and deliberated for two hours before the suspension order was given," he said.

Shafee said nobody including legislators (i.e. elected people) should be above the law, as this would result in them having unlimited powers to break the law.

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