KUALA LUMPUR, 3 DEC 2008: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is “misrepresenting” the Federal Constitution in calling for a return of royal veto on legislation as the monarchy never had such power in the first place.
The constitution, prior to being amended, only gave the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong the power to delay indefinitely bills passed by Parliament that were sent to him for royal assent.
Universiti Teknologi Mara constitutional law expert Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said the constitution was amended in 1983 to “clarify the law” on the period of time the Agong could delay his assent.
“The Agong never had veto power. He could delay a bill, question it, warn and give advice, but if he continued to delay it, he would end up contravening Article 40(1), which states that he is to act in accordance with advice of the cabinet, except on certain provisions where he may use his discretion, under Clause 2 of the same article,” Shad told The Nut Graph.
Article 40(2) gives the Agong discretion to appoint a prime minister, withhold consent to the dissolution of Parliament, and to convene a meeting of the Conference of Rulers.
“It does appear like an attempt to curry favour with the monarchy, perhaps for when they plan to form the new government,” Shad said of PKR’s suggestion made by party president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at its congress recently.
The amendment, the process of which Shad said began in August 1983 and was finalised in January 1984, gave the Agong a total of 60 days to delay bills passed by Parliament in two 30-day timeframes.
“After the first 30 days, the Agong could send the bill back to Parliament with his reservations, and Parliament could pass the bill a second time and send it to the Agong for his assent a second time. If after this total of 60 days, the King still does not give his assent, the bill becomes law.
“In 1994, this was amended to just 30 days, as stated in Article 66(4) and (4a),” Shad said.
He added that in the first round of amending the constitution in 1983-1984, the government had proposed a 15-day timeframe for royal delay to bills but this was rejected by the Conference of Rulers.
“So, it is only the Conference of Rulers, as a collective entity, that has veto power over laws that directly affect their privileges, position, honours and dignities as provided under Article 38(4), and over 10 types of legislation stated under Article 159(5),” he said.
“The learned PKR politicians are perhaps confusing the veto powers of the Conference of Rulers with the alleged powers of the Agong,” Shad said.
Shad said the statement would appeal to segments of the public who were supportive of royalty who have recently emerged as a “check-and-balance” on contentious issues such as racial politics and the fatwas on tomboys and yoga.
MCA has accused PKR of trying to gain political mileage with the Rulers after Pakatan Rakyat failed to take over the government on 16 Sept.