Categorised | Letters to the Editor

Let the people decide

IT must be appreciated that the events unfolding in Perak are unprecedented and involve complex legal issues. It is impossible to provide a conclusive opinion on them. Some matters may, however, be addressed generally as a matter of principle.

Today 27 assemblypersons in Perak were prevented by the OCPD from entering the state secretariat building, apparently upon “instructions” from the state assembly secretary.

The role of the state assembly secretary now comes under scrutiny. The secretary is an official appointed from the public services and is only responsible for the administrative management of the state. The secretary therefore has no authority to decide or pronounce whether a legislative assembly sitting is valid or not. The police have therefore acted improperly on the secretary’s advice in defiance of the speaker of the legislative assembly. These errors are further compounded by events that transpired in the High Court. 

It was asserted before the court by the plaintiff’s lawyers that the speaker ought to be represented by the state legal adviser rather than private lawyers. There is certainly legal basis to disagree with that view, but a more substantive matter of general principle must be addressed as to the position of the state legal adviser.

Firstly, every lawyer must act on the instructions of his or her client and not otherwise. The speaker has stated that he never gave instructions to the state legal adviser to either appear for him or to argue the case on his behalf. This is a matter that the court must satisfy itself of before proceeding.

Secondly, the state legal adviser is clearly in a position of conflict. He and his department are presently acting for Barisan Nasional (BN)-installed Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir in the Kuala Lumpur High Court suit, where Zambry’s appointment is being challenged. How can he or his department now act for the speaker against Zambry?

If the parties who file and defend proceedings in court are confident of the strength of their case, there is little reason to taint or mar the proceedings with acts that militate against natural justice and fair play. It bears repeating that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. The courts have a duty to uphold the highest principles of justice, fairness and their own independence. We must respect the doctrine of separation of powers and uphold the Federal Constitution.

Speaker V Sivakumar convening an emergency sitting in an open car park
(Pic by Sharon Tan, courtesy of The Edge)

The Perak Legislative Assembly was convened by the speaker a short distance from the state secretariat building. There are questions as to whether it was permissible to hold the legislative assembly outside the state secretariat building. Of course, the state secretariat building is where the legislative assembly ought to have been held. However, the speaker and assemblypersons were prevented from holding it in the proper place by the police, and this raises serious issues as to the legality of the police action. 

Thus, the speaker had no choice but to act within what may be seen as wide powers to convene the meeting elsewhere. No doubt there will be contrary views, but it must be understood that this situation is unprecedented, and the Standing Orders may not adequately cover these eventualities. Thus, this leaves the speaker with the powers to act according to the circumstances of the case.

We will no doubt see another case filed in court. And the public has to further suffer the consequences of uncertainty.

The situation is untenable and cries out for the one thing that will resolve it conclusively: fresh elections. There is now a window of opportunity for this to happen. Let the people decide.

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan
Malaysian Bar
3 March 2009

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6 Responses to “Let the people decide”

  1. Justine says:

    Injustice is written all over the actions taken by the BN/Umno government to hold on to power in Perak in any way they can.

    All right-thinking rakyat can see the following :-
    (1)The act of bending and misinterpretation of judicial and constitution rules to favor BN/Umno’s actions

    (2)The use of police force and the judiciary who should be impartial to the situation but are not, in helping BN/Umno to carry out its despicable acts.

    (3)The “samseng” nature of BN/Umno who do not abide by the results of the 12th general election where the people of Perak voiced their choice of elected representatives through the ballot box. Is this what you call democracy in Malaysia?

    We the rakyat in Perak felt very disheartened that the Sultan of Perak who is the protector of his subjects, for not speaking up for truth and justice when it mattered most but remains in silence while serious acts of treason are being carried by the BN/Umno in his state’s backyard.

    Is it a surprise that many rakyat felt that democracy is already dead and replaced by the rule of brute force similar to rogue nations like Zimbabwe.

    We weep for the injustice that has befallen Malaysia that is perpetuated by the very government who should be protecting us.

  2. Arumugam says:


    I totally agree with Datuk Ambiga’s comments. Let the people decide. And to tell you the truth, with all this childish behaviour of the PR front, I have decided to change my vote to BN as they are more cool-headed.

    People lose their jobs everyday. Our children need to be fed and all these PR jokers are messing around with their “interpretation” of the law. If BN can surrender the state with grace, PR is surely is not mature in their action to cling on power.

    And to challenge the state ruler on his decision … please note that he is ex-chief justice.

    I can bet that if you call fresh elections right now, there will be a landslide victory for BN as Malays will vote those whom the Sultan favours and all of us need the stability which we know that only BN can delivers.

  3. doinkers says:

    Dear Arumugam,

    I’m sure there’s a lot of people who’ll disagree with you. But we all agree, let the people decide!

    If the people aren’t allowed to have their say, how different are we from North Korea?

  4. PH Chin says:

    Dear Arumugam,

    I beg to differ.

    Both BN and PR are partly responsible for the current state of crisis in Perak. With a long drawn court battle in sight, it is best to let the people decide.

    The way the events unfolded the past few days, evidence of BN’s finger prints were apparent. Chances are PR will win the by-election.

  5. ismail says:

    Simply put, the under-the-tree session is 100% valid because it was a Standing Order, whereas in the Dewan it is a sitting order.

    I quote: ” … and the Standing Orders may not adequately cover these eventualities … ” Hey those guys were wearing suits, standing in the hot sun, sweating and all with the biggest ever gallery. It was pure STANDING ORDERS. Mesti valid punya. What eventualities can follow that?

  6. tengku mohd faizal says:

    Ya, chances PR or BN will win? I’m not a Perakian, neither am I a registered voter. I’m not allowed to say anything. Just wanna highlight that the jokers from both sides really make me laugh all the way.

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