Zaid says governments should not be overturned in private

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

The way Datuk Zaid Ibrahim sees it, the constitutional crisis in Perak could have been easily avoided — if only all the political players accepted that Malaysia was a democracy, where political questions should be resolved in the legislature and not behind closed doors in a palace.

The former de facto Law Minister said that instead of beating a path to the istana in Kuala Kangsar, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat should have tested their support in the state assembly through a show of hands.

"Having a show of support anywhere outside the proper arena is inappropriate. Parliaments all over the world have made it clear: This is how you do it. Just go to chambers and take a vote, '' he said, noting that in a democracy and where there is public interest at stake, it is best to resolve issues in an open forum.

That is why in a democracy the courts are open to the public. So that the common man can be satisfied that the judicial process is fair and open to scrutiny.

"So why, when it comes to overturning a government, you do it in private? Could it be because we have a culture of power? The people don't matter, only the elite matter," he said, upset that there appeared to be a great rush to put a new government in place.

Ultimately, the correct question was not whether the Sultan has the power to dissolve the House or whether he could demand for the resignation of the menteri besar but whether the political parties had sought recourse in the correct forum.

"This is about obtaining the majority confidence in the House," he noted.

Both BN and Pakatan Rakyat have 28 seats each in the state assembly but the three Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers who elected to become independent said that they would support BN.

Sultan Azlan Shah took their support for BN as evidence that Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Nizar Jamaluddin no longer had the confidence of the House. He swore in Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as the new MB yesterday but NIzar has refused to accept the decision of the palace.

The decision by Sultan Azlan Shah, a former Lord President, has sparked a firestorm of criticism with even legal experts divided on whether he acted in good faith.

Zaid, who resigned from the Abdullah administration because of lack of support for judicial reforms, said that the simple issue of determining which party held the confidence of the majority had been complicated because certain persons had acted "arbitrarily".

"I don't think this matter can be resolved through the courts. So the people will have to wait. You've got a new government in power. The palace has spoken. It's a fait accompli," he said, adding that the situation in Perak had created a "divisive" tone in the country.

"The purpose is to have a working government. It's not a mathematics game. It is not about the numbers but about stability, '' said Zaid, who stumped for Pakatan Rakyat during the recent Kuala Terengganu by-election.

He noted that some reports suggested that the actions of the Sultan cannot be questioned by the courts.

Still, does that mean that you do not have to explain your actions to the public?, he wondered.

His parting shot was that if some people in Perak felt that the transfer of power was a disguised coup d'etat, then they should speak up louder at the ballot box the next time around because it is clear that "some people aren't listening".