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What will Sivakumar do?

WILL tomorrow, 7 May 2009, mark the end of the road for Perak Speaker V Sivakumar? Will he allow a motion to remove him as speaker and to appoint or elect a new one for the state legislative assembly?

Will he uphold the suspensions of Barisan Nasional (BN)-appointed Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and six executive councillors by barring them from entering the House?

How Sivakumar handles these two key points will speak of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR)’s democratic principles. The political strike-counter-strike in the last three months of the Perak constitutional crisis has seen PR having the upper hand because the speaker, who is a DAP assemblyperson, is aligned with the alliance.

If Sivakumar strikes out the motion for his removal, he would be seen as preserving his own, and the PR’s, interests. To simple folk who support the PR, this may look heroic. To the more erudite, it raises the question: is the PR no different from the BN when it comes to wielding power?

Weighing Sivakumar’s actions

In parliamentary democracy theory, there is nothing wrong with having a prime minister from one side of the political divide, and the speaker of parliament from the other. Indeed, there was a time when the British House of Commons had the tradition of selecting the speaker from the opposition.

The DAP’s Ipoh Barat Member of Parliament (MP), lawyer M Kulasegaran, also notes that it is the practice for the speaker, upon being elected, to quit his or her political party and serve as an independent MP in his or her constituency. Furthermore, the party from which he or she resigned would not contest in the seat in future elections for as long as he or she was the speaker. This was meant to show respect for the independence of the office.

So why the fuss about removing Sivakumar now that BN controls 31 (with the help of three friendly independents) out of the Perak assembly’s 59 seats?

“If this were a mature parliamentary democracy, there would be no need to remove the speaker,” says Kulasegaran. He cites India, where the government of the day can change but the same MP remains the speaker.

The problem with politics and governance in Malaysia, however, is that people cannot yet disengage the two; thus the BN’s predictable move to oust the speaker in favour of someone supportive of the BN, and the PR’s survival-borne inclination to claw back tooth and nail to preserve what power they have through Sivakumar.

Yet, internally within the DAP, there are views that should Sivakumar act in any manner that smacks blatantly of self-preservation, the PR alliance could pay the price in a loss of credibility. There are considerations about what weight the speaker’s actions tomorrow would bear on the coming two to three years before the next general election.

It is learnt that a final pow-wow by Perak DAP and PR leaders is to take place today on 6 May to decide Sivakumar’s course of action tomorrow.

Options, options

What are Sivakumar’s options? What ought to be the principled thing to do?

Complicating matters further are the ongoing hearings in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on whether Zambry or Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin is the rightful menteri besar.

Sivakumar on 4 May wrote to the Perak Ruler Sultan Azlan Shah seeking a postponement of the assembly sitting in view of the fact that the court might not reach a decision in time. And even if it did, appeals are expected.

A deferment seems unlikely at this stage. The Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah, is to officiate at the assembly’s opening at 10am tomorrow. He will then attend a tea reception, and then leave. Up to that point, things in the House are expected to be civil.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Sivakumar could block Zambry and the six BN executive councillors from entering. The seven are still suspended as far as the PR is concerned, despite the Federal Court ruling otherwise. The court did not pass any judgment on the 3 March emergency assembly under the tree which upheld the suspensions.

The tree where the 3 March emergency assembly was held

Sivakumar could also immediately adjourn the sitting after it opens. This would be ideal in view of the High Court’s pending decision and the subsequent appeals, lawyer Andrew Khoo tells The Nut Graph. It would also avoid a dissolution of the assembly, which has to sit before 13 May or six months after its last sitting in November 2008.

But if the sitting is not adjourned, then the next two important issues for Sivakumar to address are the suspensions of Zambry and the six excos, and the motion to remove the speaker.

Khoo says the suspensions should be put to a vote in the House. This is because the Federal Court was silent on whether the assembly could vote on the recommendation of the privileges committee to suspend the seven. The court only ruled that Sivakumar himself did not have the right to order the suspensions.

“Zambry and the six excos should not be allowed to vote since they will be personally interested in the motion on their suspension,” says Khoo.

Voting on the suspensions would be the civilised way of deciding the matter. The muscle-flexing option would be for Sivakumar to bar Zambry and the six excos from even setting foot in the House, something Perak DAP chairperson Datuk Ngeh Khoo Ham reiterated on 5 May.

Vote on the speaker

Apart from the suspensions, the motion to remove the speaker should also be voted on. “The results must be respected,” Khoo says.

If the High Court rules in time before the sitting — whether Zambry or Nizar is the legitimate MB — the motion to remove the speaker would still be valid. Zambry may reconsider his motion if Nizar is ruled the rightful MB. But regardless of the court’s ruling, a vote on the speaker should be taken.

This is because the court’s decision on the MB and the motion against the speaker are separate, Khoo notes.

“They do not have to be from the same political side. Even if Zambry is MB, there is no reason in principle why Sivakumar cannot remain as speaker. The vote is like a motion of confidence on the speaker,” he says.

That, some could argue, would be the ideal — theoretically.

Khoo notes that the House should also vote on the three independents whom the Federal Court has deemed as serving assemblypersons. By voting on these contentious issues where the court is deemed to have interfered in the affairs of the legislature, the House can go some way in reclaiming its independence.

That’s not to say, however, that the constitutional crisis will end. The precedent has already been set for the courts to decide on matters of the assembly. At the same time, a parallel showdown outside the state secretariat building, where the assembly hall is located, is expected as PR parties are mobilising their supporters.

What tomorrow will amount to is whether the PR will fight to preserve the speaker’s status quo, or pick their battles and retreat to prepare for the war in the next general election.

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18 Responses to “What will Sivakumar do?”

  1. suresh says:

    WIll be an interesting day in Ipoh tomorrow.

    It is only natural for Sivakumar to just resign and that would solve all the problems.

    Anything else would just show that Sivakumar and the Pakatan gang are power crazy and causing problems for the people in Perak.

  2. vp says:

    As a Perakian, I support all the way what PR will do on 7 May for Malaysian democracy and future.

  3. Raj says:

    As a Perakian I hope PR will fight for what’s right.

  4. Joebuddy says:

    In Parliament, how did the speaker behave? Independently? No, right?

    Why should Siva allow the motion to get rid of himself knowing very well the situation in Perak?

    What is this about putting to vote the suspension when it is no one else’s business but the rights and privilege committee’s to call the shots?

    The only right thing now is the dissolution of the state assembly.

  5. siew eng says:

    Suresh, who’s the power-crazy desperado here? Which party has been in power for so long that it is refusing to let go after losing in the elections (don’t count the gerrymandered seats – look at the popular vote, which Pakatan won unquestioningly) and is now resorting to underhanded means to unseat the **democratically** elected government? Perak is now a mini-Thailand in the making thanks to the BN government, which thinks it is the natural, dulu-kini-dan-selamanya government of Malaysia.

  6. Tun Perak says:

    Suresh, doesn’t the same apply to Zambry? Isn’t it the best way if he agrees to have a snap poll state wide?

    Why the double standard?

  7. zach says:

    Sivakumar can reject the motion to remove him.

    Let’s not forget that a few weeks ago, the speaker of the Melaka state assembly rejected the opposition leader’s push for a vote of no confidence to Chief Minister Ali Rustam who was convicted of corruption prior to the Umno party polls.

  8. Rosli says:

    The Speaker should weigh the circumstance and exercise his authority in the highest standard the office entails. BN’s attempts to sabotage the proceeding and desperate manipulation to override the constitutional process must be arrested.

    This is the moment of truth and the rakyat must be fearless to stand for the Menteri Besar they had originally elected. Never give in to the corrupt BN machinery.

  9. railcoop says:

    It would be ideal if the Assembly can first assert its independence and make it clear that the Courts cannot and should not interfere in the affairs of the Assembly. The Assembly represents the People. It is from the People that the Executive and the Judiciary come into being. Hence, to that extent, these two organs are subservient and lower in standing to the Assembly/Parliament. To make things more effective it could also charge the PDRM and the State Secretary and his cronies along with the State Legal Advisor for ‘contempt’ and ‘punish’ them for and on behalf of the People.

    After that ideally the Assembly should dissolve itself and go back to the People from whom it obtained its rights and duties.

    Is this fanciful thinking? No. It would make most people happy that the Rule of Law still prevails and that the Courts simply cannot invade the halls of the Assembly and the Will of the People.

  10. thomas says:

    Mr Mentri Besar, you are desperate for a “seat”, I buy you one. In the meantime, go and sit at the mamak stall and order a teh tarik.

  11. Guna says:

    It is silly to think that the problem in Perak would end with the resignation of Sivakumar as the Speaker.

    Sivakumar is not the problem here. The problem was created when the democratic will of the people of Perak was subverted by certain greedy, selfish and unethical people. They could not accept the verdict of the people, believed in their divine right to rule and had no qualms of regaining their lost position even by the adoption of foul means. In short they do not respect the rakyat. Only they matter. They themselves will not wait for the next general elections but have no hesitation in advising their adversaries to patiently wait until then. For the moment they must behave like gentlemen, give way and quietly watch this ugly and ridiculous spectacle from their corner.

    The problem can only be solved by the dissolution of the Assembly and the restoration of the right of self-determination of the people of Perak.

  12. Adrian says:

    Suresh, how does your logic work? It’s only natural for Siva to resign in order to solve the problems?

    Say if I steal your money then is it only natural for you to keep quiet and pretend nothing happened? After all, you don’t want to cause problems, right?

  13. Right2Choose says:

    If everyone had followed the correct procedures from the beginning, we would not be in this mess now. To expect the Speaker to be impartial while so many steps, procedures and laws having been trampled by the other party. If the suspension of the seven is upheld, then any motion by the BN will not pass. Also looking at what is happening outside the Perak DUN will also tell us then not everything is fair to the PR. Under these circumstances I support PR’s actions.

  14. democracy is dead says:


    Don’t confuse us. Who toppled the legitimate government in Perak? Which party is elected by Perakians? Who abused the government machinery to suppress the legitimate government?

    Democracy is dead in Malaysia. We should mourn for having a “1BLACKMalaysia”!

  15. zuan says:

    Suresh…oh Suresh… you made me laugh till I peed.

  16. Eric says:

    Let’s look at the bright side, on the premise there is always a sliver lining. This crisis revealed two great younger leaders in the PR stable: Nizar, of course, and Sivakumar.
    I have been impressed by how Sivakumar managed to keep calm and composed fit for his function throughout the ordeal despite all the pressure being piled up on him. Sivakumar looks like a promising leader, whom Malaysia will need to clean up the horrendous mess left by BN.

    “1BlackMalaysia, Democracy first, elections now”

  17. paul says:

    The people speak louder with their votes.

  18. A Gopalan Nair says:

    For me PR is Perak!

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