Categorised | Letters to the Editor

“Shameful scene unfolding in Perak”

Tengku Razaleigh
Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

THE constitution is the highest law of the land. It is the foundation and source of legal authority, and the Rulers are sworn to protect and uphold it.

According to the constitution, Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin is menteri besar until he resigns of his own accord, or is removed by a vote of no-confidence in a formal sitting of the assembly. The constitution makes no provision for his removal by any other means, including by petitions or instructions from any other authority.

Two principles need clarifying in the light of today’s events.

First, the government of the day is established according to rules and principles codified in the constitution. This is the difference between a legitimately-formed government and tyranny, which is rule by the law of the jungle.

Second, a legitimate constitutional government draws all its authority from the consent of the people and only from that consent. The people consent because it is their government formed according to their constitution, whose leaders they have chosen through free and fair elections.

We need to test that consent periodically. At key points such as when governments are to be formed or to be dissolved, the constitution provides for formal, definitive tests to find out how much of the people’s “consent”, or support, a government really has.

So we conduct elections to test how much support a candidate for leadership has among the people. The question is posed in elections governed by rules and oversight agreed ahead of time. If those elections are not held, or if there is some doubt that they are free and fair, then the question of legitimate leadership is not
determined. It doesn’t matter how many people with flaming torches march chanting your name in the middle of the night. You need to prove you have the support of voters in a free and fair election.

Similarly, the constitution provides for a definitive way to test if the chief minister or the prime minister commands a majority in the Dewan or in Parliament, as the case may be. We put the question to a vote of confidence on the floor of the Dewan. Only the answer of the assembly counts. It doesn’t matter how many sworn statements, defections, press conferences, and declarations you have, or what forms of advertisement, display, inducement or force you bring to bear on the question.

To formally test the mandate of the current government, whether in Perak, Sabah or the Federal government, the question must either be put to the people through state elections, or to the assemblypersons through a formal vote in the Dewan. These are the only tests that count in our constitutional democracy.

This is what it means to be a parliamentary democracy. To remove and install governments in any other way is to violate the constitution, erode the rule of law, and to run the risk of forming an illegal government.

Legitimate authority can only be established through the democratic means spelt out in our constitution. Rightful authority is an entirely different thing from the brute power that can be bought, sold or seized by force.

The invisible laws make our government, nation and society possible. I won’t begin to describe the harm we would do these things if we began to ratify power achieved without regard for the rule of law in this country.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
5 Feb 2009

See also:
Ku Li: BN celebration “premature”

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5 Responses to ““Shameful scene unfolding in Perak””

  1. Moses C says:

    Tengku. You have my utmost respect. For you are a rare and dying breed of Umno leaders that was once what was good in the Barisan. Barisan now is a pale shadow of its founder’s intentions. This is a disgraceful day for all Malaysians.

    Peace and justice for all!

  2. what la says:

    The one who is afraid to lose would seek to avoid elections. But think rationally,what does a loss mean? That the RAKYAT don’t want them?

    So BN are trying to seize and at the same time they think that the RAKYAT don’t want them! So it’s obviously not about the RAKYAT anymore. Is the Sultan acting in the interest of his RAKYAT?

  3. Andrew I says:

    Perhaps the time has come for Tengku to revive Semangat ’46.

    These are the same ideals you once spoke so passionately about. You have experienced the same kind of underhandedness. Tell us, what is the difference between then and now?

  4. kcs says:

    Dear Tengku,

    You have been arguing your views consistently. Why don’t you do it on a platform which carries weight instead of belittling Umno from within? Join Pakatan and bring all your supporters.

  5. Melissa says:

    Dear Ku Li, yes – you are indeed one of the last remaining in a fast-dying breed. You are a man with considerable integrity and far more intelligence and interest in serving the people than any of your Umno colleagues.

    So here’s my proposal – come join Pakatan! You know it’s the right thing to do because you will be far more effective on this side of the fence. Here is where you are needed and you will be appreciated, unlike with the corrupt Umno cronies who would not even stick their necks out to nominate you as president.

    I am certain you know these things and have pondered them considerably. So c’mon, my dear prince! The clock is ticking and we would welcome you with open arms.

    Let us fight for a better Malaysia before things become even worse than they already are.


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