PETALING JAYA, 22March 2009: A constitutional expert disagrees with an appeal to the King to appoint someone other than Datuk Seri Najib Razak as prime minister.
Professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi says the call, made by Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to appoint someone else whom Malaysians can “trust and respect”, would amount to dragging the King into politics.
It would be unconstitutional, Shad Saleem said, because the King has the discretion to appoint as prime minister the person who commands the confidence of the majority of the Members of Parliament. And under present circumstances, Barisan Nasional still has the majority, even if it is less than two-thirds.
“It is not the role of the King to choose the best person [as prime minister]. That would involve the King in politics. The situation would then become the same as the Perak crisis,” he said.
He said in Perak, there had been no vote of confidence taken in the legislative assembly to decide which person had commanded the majority support in order to be appointed menteri besar.
“In the Dewan Rakyat presently, whether the leader of the majority of the house is from a party, a coalition, or even a loose arrangement, the leader has the majority support. Whether he is suitable or not is irrelevant.”
Shad Saleem was speaking at a public forum on 20 March titled Political Developments in Malaysia in Petaling Jaya.
He said the discretionary power of a state’s ruler to appoint the menteri besar was not absolute, but rather, a “controlled discretionary function” guided by the legislative based on the majority support for an assemblyperson.
“The discretionary function is a structured discretion which has guidelines. If there is a clear-cut winner in the general election, then the Sultan has to appoint the head of that party as MB. That would be under normal circumstances.
“But if there is a hung assembly with no clear-cut majority, then the circumstances are different.”
He said the best solution would be to put the matter back to a vote in the house.
Zaid’s appeal to the King was also criticised by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who said it was “illogical“.