No Statutory Declarations Please


From Zaid Ibrahim
The “Perak precedent” was established by the highest court in the land in 2009; when the court ruled that the King could determine if a political leader has the support – or in some cases has lost the support – of the majority of members in the state assembly by way of statutory declarations instead of an open vote from the floor of the assembly, as is generally practised in democracies in other countries.
I as well, like many others, criticised the decision.
A Federal Court judge I met at a mutual friend’s house who was involved in the case asked me why I was so critical of the decision.
I told him I just don’t want our King to be hustled by our politicians.
The dignity of the palace must always be preserved and one way of doing this is not to allow politicians to bring supporters by the busload, to the palace grounds and using statutory declaration forms – the veracity of which will never be known – to secure the confidence of the King.
What else could have been traded among these politicians, God knows.
From that day our monarchs were kept busy by prime minister aspirants bringing with them bundles of statutory declarations, and carrying supporters to show the King that they have majority support to form a government.
This is not the best way to show the world how we practise democracy.
We have pride and dignity. Our King must be able to trust our elected representatives to vote without hiding behind statutory declarations.
The people too must be allowed to see for themselves evidence of support for the prime minister by way of hands raised in Parliament or the state assembly.
Let the confidence issue be a matter of candour and openness and let our leaders face the public on this important issue without hiding behind the palace.
I have to come back to this issue of ascertaining which leader has majority support because I foresee that in the next few weeks there will be another flurry of visits to the palace by those who aspire to be the next prime minister.
I hope the King will tell them to stay put in Parliament and sort this issue of leadership like a gentleman would.
For example – and this is all hypothetical – if there is a vote of no confidence on the prime minister, let the vote and the process be done without all sorts of excuses and hindrances in order to facilitate such a motion.
We are a Muslim country and our leaders must behave with decorum and full of integrity.
For those who want to take over – for example, Anwar Ibrahim, Hishammuddin Hussein or Khairy Jamaluddin – they need to show they have the support of the majority. They need to be voted in by those MPs on the floor of the Dewan Rakyat by a clear voice vote or by show of hands.
It is time the rakyat see for themselves the stand of their respective MPs when choosing a prime minister.
Before the vote, each of the aspirants should be allowed 20 minutes or so to speak on why they are worthy of support.
Hishammuddin and Khairy will have to explain why Umno MPs should vote for them and not Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. They will also have to explain why breaking ranks with the party leader is necessary.
Anwar will have to do the same. He needs to explain that he deserves to be prime minister, not because it is long overdue or the years he spent in jail, but because he has great plans for the people of the country.
If the most divisive and fractious democracy in the world, Israel can permit the orderly transfer of power and selection of a new prime minister which is done openly in the Knesset, why can’t this proud Muslim country do the same?
The impression that we resort to cloak and dagger operations and some unsavoury conduct in choosing a leader must be dispelled and done away with for good. - FMT
Zaid Ibrahim is a former federal minister.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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