Mayday in Perak

The contention is that the secretary of the Assembly was the one who had issued the notice for the new session in the Assembly and not the MB. The assembly secretary is but a clerk of paliament and has to take orders from the Speaker and cannot act on his own.

By BOB TEOH, My Sinchew

THE PERAK State Assembly is scheduled to sit on Thursday 7 May. We may yet see the ongoing constitutional crisis there becoming full blown. As it is, the constitutional legitimacy of the Mentri Besar and his executive council or state cabinet is being challenged in the courts – from the High Courts both in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur to the Court of Appeal and the apex Federal Court in Putrajaya.

Until the courts decide definitively one way or another, there are now two mentris besar; one who was recently appointed by the Perak Sultan and the other was asked to resign by the Sultan to make way for the former. The problem is that he and his exco did not resign. So who is the pretender to the throne?

To make things worse, the Speaker of the Perak State Assembly, who is from the Pakatan Rakyat coalition decided to call the Assembly into session while the Barisan nominated Mentri Besar and six of his exco members were suspended from the Assembly. The State Secretary, who is a Federal appointee, then ordered the doors to the Assembly chambers locked. But the Speaker convened the sitting nonetheless but under a rain tree nearby which immediately moved a motion that the Mentri Besar from his camp is the legitimate office holder.

The other side quickly challenged the legitimacy of the Speaker’s move as the Sultan’s permission was neither sought nor given. But the Speaker maintained that permission from the Istana was not needed as the Assembly was not in adjournment but only in recess. The new Mentri Besar also challenged his suspension including that of his six exco members from the Assembly as unconstitutional and the High Court agreed that the Speaker was indeed wrong to suspend them.

The problem is that it was the rights and privileges committee of the Assembly and not the Speaker who ordered the suspension. This is surely a case of barking up the wrong tree.

Now to resolve the constitutional circus once and for all, the Barisan Mentri Besar has decided to call the Assembly into session to sack the Speaker and appoint one from his own camp. He has indicated that the Sultan has given his consent for the sitting.

But the question is who calls the Assembly into session? The Speaker, of course, and not the MB otherwise this will be a gross violation of the principle of seperation of powers between the legislative headed by the Speaker and the executive headed by the MB.

The contention is that the secretary of the Assembly was the one who had issued the notice for the new session in the Assembly and not the MB. The assembly secretary is but a clerk of paliament and has to take orders from the Speaker and cannot act on his own.

A moot point is that the Barisan MB may try to get a court order to force to call the Assembly into session. But this again will be a fundamental transgression of the separation of powers principle. One cannot dismiss this even as a remote possibility, as already in one or two instances in the current slew of litigation between the two parties, the judiciary was perceived to have overstepped its powers and being bias as well.

So what can we expect on 7 May? The MB has already submitted his proposal to sack the Speaker and has nominated his choice for relacement. The opposition bench has indicated it will attend thus quashing earlier speculation that it may boycott the sitting.

Short of being kidnapped , the Speaker is expected to turn up. Failing which, his deputy who was from his camp but has sinced switched sides will take over and do the bidding of the new MB. End of crisis.

But if the Speaker actually turns up on Thursday, he can do one of three things. The first thing he can do, but which is unlikely, is that he calls the Assembly into session. The Barisan MB immediately jumps up and propose to sack the Speaker. Since his has the numbers, the Speaker will be sacked. End of crisis.

The other choice is for the Speaker to announce that the notice for the sitting is procedurally wrong and flawed and everybody can go home. Another alternative was for him to disallow the MB’s emergency motion to sack him following the example of the Federal Parliament where emergency motions from the opposition are routinely rejected simply on the basis there was no urgency to discuss it.

That as it may, if the ruling bench somehow managed to get the Assembly into session and sack the Speaker, then the constitutional crisis would have becomne full blown with Perak having the dubious distinction of the being the only state government in the whole world with two MBs and two Speakers. This surely would be a stereophonic Mayday callsign.

The Mayday callsign originated in 1923 for airplanes and ships in distress from the French phrase Venez m'aider which means come help me.

Will the Prime Minister come to their help? Maybe. But it was the PM (who was then the deputy PM) who precipitated the constitutional crisis by getting his man to be the new MB. Come 7 May and may hear callsign for: Venez m'aider.. But since virtually nobody understands French, the callsign is likely to go unheeded. What Mayday?