With all the drama going on in Malaysia, many of us are getting tired and weary. Malaysians are just looking for someone to help solve everything.We are even turning to our ex-PM, Dr. Mahathir and even God for help…
To add to that, there are also talks about asking our Agong, Tuanku Alhaj Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah from Kedah to take action in this time of trouble. Yes, our 88 year old, the OLDEST EVER Agong in Malaysian history.
Ok chup, mini random trivia time: HM(His Majesty) is the only person to be an Agong TWICE; his uncle is Tunku Abdul Rahman (who stepped down when our Agong became king for the first time cos Tunku ‘felt it wasn’t right‘ to serve under his nephew), and he famously walked a mile to a football game when his car broke down.
Now, speaking about not ‘feeling right’, an UMNO veteran recently said that the Agong is the only one who has the power to remove the Prime Minister. But let’s be honest – for the average Malaysian out there, do we even know what power our Agong has? CILISOS decides to take a deeper look into our constitution to find out what the Agong can really do…
P.S. CILISOS is trying to be as factually correct as CILISOS can… So, if got mistake, please don’t sedition us, just tell us about it….
UPDATE (11/3/16): Unfortunately, it seems lately the gomen is writing his speeches for him. So, alot of these powers might not come into play
1. Agong cannot sack the PM but he may be able to sack other menteri
Following the 1MDB scandal, many people have called upon the PM to take leave (i.e Ambiga, NGOs and even opposition leaders). There was even a rally called #TangkapNajib on the 1st of August, urging the PM to resign.
So what the UMNO veteran mentioned above is kinda correct. According to Eric Paulsen from Lawyers for Liberty, he said that in theory, as long as the PM commands the majority in the Parliament, the PM cannot be sacked. So, to sack the PM, a party would have to show that the PM no longer has the support of the majority. But…
How does one show ‘no support’ for the PM?
Well, the best way is a ‘vote of no confidence’ in Parliament. A party (usually the opposition) have to show that the Members of Parliament (a.k.a MPs) no longer have confidence in the PM (Just like how the conservative Margaret Thatcher brought down the Labour government in 1979). But then right… the procedure for it is not very clear.
Alternatively, they can imitate the method used in Selangor during the super-mega-headache-omg Menteri Besar crisis. Here, 30 MPs swore their support to Wan Azizah in writing. These were included in her letter asking for an audience with the Sultan of Selangor. Ok ok, CILISOS knows that in the end Wan Azizah didn’t become the MB of Selangor, cos the Sultan of Selangor picked Azmin Ali for that position. Eric Paulsen says that this is because we still have a monarchy, so their discretion comes into play as well.
As for our Agong, in our Federal Constitution there is no specific sentence that says that our Agong can suke je sack our PM anytime. Article 43(5) of our Federal Constitution however states that all menteri except our PM holds their office at “the pleasure of the King”. They will continue to be menteri unless HM on the advice of the PM revokes their appointments or they choose to resign. So yes, the Agong can sack the other menteri, but only on the advice of the PM.
There were some debate about whether Anwar Ibrahim was legally sacked as a minister. This was because his letter of dismissal was signed by the PM and not the Agong. Court held that the dismissal was still valid so long as Agong was advised and informed about the decision. So, the recent cabinet reshuffle, while many thought it was a desperate move, it was still legal.
2. Agong can stop the PM from declaring a state of emergency
It seems we Malaysians are terribly afraid that a state of emergency will be declared….
WhatsApp messages about this possibility were being circulated during the recent cabinet reshuffle (Dato’ Ambiga has deny writing the message, even making a police report about it) or how a Malaysiakini commenter thinks that Bersih 4.0 is a trap to instigate riots leading to a state of emergency. Malaysians and all their paranoia leading to conspiracies…
First of all, it isn’t that easy to declare a state of emergency (as we’ve covered before)! Anyway, the PM cannot suka-suka then declare an emergency, For such a declaration to be valid, the Agong will need to sign the declaration. Our Agong cannot even give permission to someone else to sign on his behalf. Don’t believe CILISOS? Refer to Article 150 of our Federal Constitution, or better yet, this article by the Malaysian Insider.
Sure, the Agong usually acts on the advice of the PM, but our PM cannot force the Agong to do anything, furthermore with the guards protecting our Agong.
3. Agong is the boss in Parliament
If ugaiz think that the Agong’s job is only to attend functions and stay in a nice palace, ugaiz are wrong! HM is actually part of the Malaysian Parliament. Really one, HM is not so free, goes Parliament just to give speech. Only the Agong can convene the Parliament under Article 55 of the Federal Constitution. More importantly, all bills in the Parliament requires the assent of HM (aka stamp of approval) for it to become law. Hence, Agong is the boss!
Not cool enough? What if CILISOS tells you that the much criticised Official Secret Acts do not apply to the Agong? Under article 40(1) of our Federal Constitution, HM in entitled to receive any information concerning the government which is available to the cabinet.
OK, back to our initial point about bills in the Parliament, there’s more to this story. ALL bills, regardless of whether it started in Dewan Rakyat or Dewan Negara, has to be presented to HM, kinda like this…
^ to summarise briefly, it’s like this:
Bill gets approval from the houses in Parliament > Agong has 30 days to approve > Agong can sent it back to Parliament for amendments > After amendments, it goes back to the Agong > Agong has another 30 days to decide
When a bill is presented to the Agong, HM has 30 days to give the royal assent (aka royal sign of approval). If HM delays his approval (over the 30 days) it would automatically become law regardless of HM’s consent. Some say that this provision have reduce the monarch to “one without any teeth” since even if he doesn’t approve the bill, it would still be law.
But chup – has the Agong EVER rejected a bill?
GOT. CILISOS found 2 incidences where a bill was rejected, and both happened when Dr Mahathir was the PM.
- In 1983, the government proposed amending article 66 of the Federal Constitution, so that HM was only given 15 days to delay a bill before it is automatically deemed to have been given the assent. However, Universiti Teknologi Mara constitutional law expert Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi clarifies that it was the Conference of Rulers that had rejected the bill and not the Agong.
- In 1993, the Conference of Rulers again rejected a bill concerning legal immunity of the rulers. Following their rejection, there were pressures on the Rulers. It was announced that, the Rulers would only receive benefits expressly provided for in law. New York Times published an article where UMNO legislators voiced their support for the bill. Local media played their role by exposing alleged excesses of the Rulers. So eventually, there was a compromise between the Rulers and the government.
So it seems that the Conference of Rulers have attempted to reject bills before, but eventually they would give the Royal Assent. The Agong himself never had the power to veto a bill. According to Prof Dr Shad, to continue delaying it, the Agong might end up going against Article 40(1) of the Federal Constitution. So yeah, sorry ugaiz #clickbait.
4. Agong can prevent early elections
Well first of all, the correct term is actually “snap elections“. They are basically elections that are done when not required either by law or convention. OK, that seems understandable but did ugaiz know that in 2008, our then PM Abdullah Badawi called for a snap election? Yes, that is how The Economist, The Financial Times and Australian Broadcasting Corporation described the 2008 elections. Why? Well the 2008 elections were held a year earlier than scheduled.
The Agong has a discretion if the PM seeks to bubarkan the Parliament early under Article 40(2) of the Federal Constitution . HM can put a stop to this if HM feels justified to do so, like if it would be prejudicial to national interest. This is important because snap elections are usually used by the government to ambil peluang on what they deem to be an advantageous time with the aim of increasing their majority in parliament. However the Agong himself cannot call for a snap election.
5. Agong can also put an Opposition member as PM!?
Yes, HM definitely can. Other than having the opposition party winning in the General Election, there’s another way for an opposition member to be PM. Earlier, CILISOS mentioned about the vote of no confidence. There are talks about opposition MPs bringing forward a vote of no-confidence although this BN MP thinks that it would be a useless action.There are talks about the tide turning against our PM, but…
What could happen if such a vote did occur in Parliament and was successful?
Well, the PM would then have 2 choices:
- step down, or
- advise the Agong to dissolve parliament and call for an election.
However, we found this article by Prof Dr Shad that says that although by convention, the Agong would follow the PM’s advice, HM DOESN’T HAVE to do so under Article 40(2)(b) of the Federal Constitution. So the HM can alternatively refuse the PM’s advice and is entitled to invite the opposition leader to be the new PM.
6. If the Parlimen 50-50, Agong can decide for them
Well, actually… not really a 50-50. It could also be a 48-48-4 if there are three parties. But you get the idea…
Hung parliament is when no single political party (whether allied or not) has an absolute majority in the parliament. Rewinding back to the Selangor crisis, there were fears that a hung parliament would occur if PAS members didn’t support Pakatan Rakyat. This is because if there was a coalition of PAS-BN-Independent vs DAP-PKR in Selangor, there would be an equal number of seats.
If such a case occurs after a general election, the Agong has the last say. Prof Dr Shad says that the Agong can call on the prime ministers-in-waiting to submit their list of supporters to the Agong. The Agong will then pick the person that can satisfy the claim of majority according to HM’s opinion. The Federal Constitution is silent as to how the Agong should proceed, so yes, here HM really is the boss! #Notclickbaitanymore
However, if the PM chooses to resign (i.e. Tun Mahathir) or dies while in office (i.e Tun Abdul Razak), HM has no such discretion if the ruling party or coalition has an absolute majority and is united behind the predecessor.
But will the Agong care enough to intervene?
One important fact to remember is that waaaaay back like even before 1957, the Sultans were actually the Kings of their respective state. Remember all those history lessons about how they fought against foreign invaders to defend their states? As time goes, their powers were reduced overtime due to multiple reasons.
We always remember Tunku Abdul Rahman as the guy who went to London to fight for our independence, but along with him there were also FOUR wakil for the Malaysian Royalty as well. While the end-result was that Malaysia became a democracy, they also left our Agong with some pretty cool powers to continue if not ruling, then at least looking after his people.
However, will the current Agong actually put any of this into action? Well, CILISOS tried googling and cannot find news of the Agong flexing his powers. HM did however ask Malaysians to avoid politicking and to strengthen our unity.
However, even if the current agong doesn’t do much about the current situation, his term actually ends in Dec 2016. His replacement? The 46-year old Sultan of Kelantan, Sultan Muhammad V, THE sultan that got everyone talking about how he had helped the flood victims in Kelantan without all the usual protocol.
P.S. Previously we used the title His Royal Highness instead of His Majesty till one of our readers pointed out the mistake. Sorry for confusing ugaiz. This CILISOS writer thought that the titles could be used interchangeably 🙁