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Not treasonous to question Sultan

Sultan Azlan Shah (image source:

PETALING JAYA, 6 Feb 2009: People have the right to question a Ruler’s decision which impacts the public, legal experts said.

Asked to comment on the opposition towards Sultan Azlan Shah’s decision not to dissolve the Perak legislative assembly yesterday, Datuk Param Cumaraswamy said: “The public has the right to discuss the implications of the Sultan’s decision, which affects the electorate.”

Param, who is the former UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said citizens have the right to disagree with the palace’s decision and express desire for snap elections.

Malaysian Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan agreed, saying: “As long as public dissent is expressed peacefully, respectfully and reasonably, it should be permitted.”

Last night, the embattled Perak Pakatan Rakyat called for a 100,000-strong public demonstration in Ipoh to support the coalition government which the Sultan has asked to step down to make way for the Barisan Nasional (BN).

Accusations are rife from the BN camp that the Pakatan Rakyat is treasonous for demanding snap elections and supporting besieged Perak Menteri Besar (MB) Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin.

“These accusations of treason are unfounded,” Ambiga told The Nut Graph in a phone interview. “Police blockades of the demonstrators (last night) [were] unnecessary.”

Additionally, Nizar’s refusal to relinquish his post as the MB also cannot be considered treasonous or seditious, the legal experts said.

Former Malaysian Bar Council president Yeo Yang Poh said that treason and sedition are archaic offences.

“Historically, the rationale for treason and sedition was not democracy-based,” Yeo said in a phone interview. “The rationale was raised in a context of king and empire. In a modern democracy, it is obsolete.”

Ambiga added that the Bar Council believes the Sedition Act should be abolished.

Param said that the Sedition Act outlawed incitement of disaffection against the Ruler.

“But it is up to a court of law to decide if the demonstration (last night) was agitating the public to show ill-will against the Ruler,” said Param.

It is also ultimately for the court to decide if Nizar’s refusal to step down as MB is seditious, Param added.

“The BN can criticise Nizar for not adhering to the constitution or the law.

“But to accuse the Pakatan Rakyat of treason and sedition is simply not in tune with modern democratic values,” said Yeo.

Sultan acted constitutionally

The experts, however, said it was inaccurate to say the palace had violated the constitution or the laws of the land.

“The Perak constitution confers the power on the Sultan to appoint an MB who commands the confidence of the state assembly,” Param said.

He added that an MB who loses the assembly’s confidence can ask the Sultan for a dissolution, but it was up to the Sultan to consider the request.


“If the Sultan refuses to dissolve the assembly, the state constitution provides that the MB resigns, along with the state executive committee,” Param said.

Ambiga said that because of this, it would be difficult for Nizar to insist on staying on as MB.

She said the Pakatan Rakyat could challenge the BN’s takeover by seeking to establish the validity of the assemblypersons’ pre-signed, undated resignation letters and challenging the Election Commission’s decision in court.

“But we must remember this is uncharted territory for everyone, in that the numbers in the state assembly are very close,” Ambiga said.

The BN now has 28 seats, an equal number of seats as the Pakatan Rakyat, in the 59-seat state assembly. The BN is relying heavily on support from the three independents, formerly from Pakatan Rakyat, who resigned on 4 Feb.

“The composition of the state assembly remains so divided. How long is it going to go on like this?” Param asked.

“At the end of the day, this is now a government formed by crossovers, and our laws allow for this,” said Ambiga. “Whether it is ethically and morally right or wrong is a different issue.”

See also: Perak crisis

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15 Responses to “Not treasonous to question Sultan”

  1. Sunny says:

    I see alot of Pakatan Rakyat cybertroopers condemning BN and crying foul. Let’s ponder for a moment … what if … what if the Sept 16 charade paraded by Anwar materialised? Would these same critics throw shoes at the BN defectors? Would they accuse the BN defectors of betraying the voters? Would they accuse the defectors of abandoning their constituents? If the PM refused to resign and give way to Anwar, what would these critics say? Would they support the PM like they are supporting the MB now? What would they spin out to “justify” their takeover engineered by Anwar by hook or by crook, more likely by crook?

    People living in glass houses should not throw stones.

  2. Anton says:

    I see another comment that says Pakatan Rakyat started it first.

    They seem to forget that it is already stated that PR planned to have early elections (in six months) should their takeover have succeeded (refer to:

    BN, on the other hand; does not have that intention.

    And look back at that article; about BN complaining how undemocratic crossovers are. See the hypocrisy now?

  3. doinkers says:

    Agree with Sunny BUT if the Pakatan took over via cross-overs they would have held fresh elections. And I’m sure BN would insist for fresh elections to be called.

    Issue is that the people are not given the option to voice their opinion via voting.

  4. Houndini says:

    Dear Sunny

    I agree. But then this just shows who the rakyat is supportive of, isn’t it? Theoretically in a democratic society, it’s the person/party that commands the most support from the people who wins.

    I can tell you Nizar is the best MB Perak ever had. He’s the only MB who turned the bankrupt state around.

  5. cloudy says:


    Anwar offers a reelection, whereas BN doesn’t.

  6. Andrew I says:

    Talking about it and actually doing it are two different things, Sunny.

    At any rate, you wouldn’t do everything someone tells you to do, would you?

    By doing it, one becomes the pot that is calling the kettle black.

  7. felix says:

    The sultan should have seen that the situation now is very unstable with BN 28, PR 28 and three who could wriggle to BN or PR, whichever has the best offer. A snap election will be more appropriate to pacify all concerned but then again BN don’t play fair even to the extent of using the sultan.

  8. Justice Bao says:

    HRH has failed Perakians. In our hour of need he was not decisive to dissolve the state assembly and let the people decide. Instead his decision is influenced by the four infamous frogs. Do you, HRH, truly believe what they said to you? Do they have principles? What happened to your high standard?

    Now Perak is in turmoil in the days, weeks, months and even years ahead. There will be a lot of politicking with a weak state government who came in power with your weak decision.

    It will have been wise to have a FRESH election and let Perakians decide. Whatever the outcome so be it – it’s the people’s choice. Why make the majority of your subjects feel sad and betrayed? Instead, with the worldwide financial turmoil, you should get Perakians to work cohesively to save jobs, businesses, etc.

    You, Tuanku, have tarnished your impeccable image in the eyes of all by this action.

  9. ravi says:

    Sometimes I wonder whether we should teach children in school that the internet for its many greatly qualities is seriously flawed in quality itself. Scandalous comments pass due to proliferating cyber troopers (both ends are to be blamed).

    In research, mere opinion does not count as a reference. The only thing true in this is the fact that the truth dispensed is not absolute. Therefore, it should be regarded with a pinch of salt.

    P/S We live in a federation; I suppose the more important things are in the power of the federal government.

  10. BSJT says:

    Well, when the Bota Adun jumped over to PR – no money, no post, no kidnappings and no foul play. Everything was transparent.

    With the BN’s approach – threats, kidnaps, brute force, dirty money.

    That’s the difference!

  11. billauchris says:

    I am a Perakian by birth. What happened in Perak on 5 Feb 09 saddens and sickens me indeed to the very bone.

    The people elected the Pakatan Rakyat to be the state government. To remove them, it is only logical to go back to the people. Let us have a Referendum to provide a channel to determine the peoples’ sentiments, hopes and expectations. Perakians have never been known to accept unfairness, injustice and moral cowardice.

    BN cannot stand up with pride and confidence by securing power through back-door means. By using the police and FRU to silence the protesters to usurp the Pakatan’s power is tantamount to a gross abuse of power, barbaric and unthinkable.

    Let us be civil in resolving the crisis.

    HRH must now come out boldly to lead his state out of the predicament. He cannot allow ruffians, rogues and grafters to administer his state. That will tarnish his throne and the good image of Perak.

    My proposal is: let BN’s and PR’s fate be decided by the Perakians through a Referendum.

  12. MCA says:

    He claims it is a legitimate government but doesn’t not dare to face the PEOPLE whom he governs over. Hence, I am puzzled – what does he mean to be legitimate?

  13. 2nd Sunny says:

    Sunny’s argument that it works both way does not hold water. Reason being, if the Pakatan Rakyat wants to be a thief/robber, does this justify Umno being a bigger thief? One wrong action/intention, does not justify Umno/BN’s action as they are the government which is supposed to uphold for all virtues of democracy. What will this reflect to the international communities?

  14. adunsimportant says:

    Ravi, saying that only MPs are important as they make decisions at the federal level is glossing over a whole lot of changes that can be made and have been made at state level. Matters of land are made at the state level for e.g., and look no further than landslide tragedies in affluent MPAJ areas in Selangor if one cannot empathise with land matters to do with indigenous people in Perak.

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