Perak debacle – an unforgivable violation of the constitution

Under the doctrine of separation of power, upon which the Malaysian Constitution is founded, neither the Executive, nor the Judiciary can meddle into the affairs of the legislature.

Kim Quek

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government has probably scored another first in the world.  It has sent its police force to enter a state legislative assembly hall to physically haul the sitting speaker out of the assembly hall and escort another speaker of its choice to take over the empty seat during a melee.  Through this act, BN claimed that it has successfully ousted the Pakatan Rakyat speaker V. Sivakumar.

We have seen scuffles between opposing legislators in legislative assemblies in other parts of the world, notably in Taiwan and South Korea.  And we have also seen Sergeants-at-arms getting physical in such situations.  But I don’t believe there is a precedent anywhere that the police force enters a legislature to take control of events – least of all, physically evicting an incumbent speaker and physically installing a new speaker from the opposing camp, like what happened in the Perak state assembly on May 7.

Under the doctrine of separation of power, upon which the Malaysian Constitution is founded, neither the Executive, nor the Judiciary can meddle into the affairs of the legislature.  As the supreme body of a government and as an independent institution, the legislative assembly enjoys autonomy and has always been meticulously out of bounds to the police force.

Sending a horde of police personnel into the assembly hall to forcibly enforce a decision of one party against another is therefore a heinous and unforgivable act of violation of the fundamental principles of our Constitution.  First, the police should never intrude into the sacrosanct ground of the assembly; and second, the police should never take side in a political dispute, as it should at all time act as a politically neutral body to enforce law and order.

The pandemonium that broke out in the Perak Assembly is rooted in a tussle for legitimacy to govern the Perak State.  The constitutional crisis exploded in early February when the Ruler appointed a new Menteri Besar from BN when the incumbent Pakatan Menteri Besar had not resigned, resulting in two parallel governments.  The issues that complicate the impasse now are:

a) whether the three defectors from Pakatan did or did not resign as assemblymen

b) whether the suspension of BN Menteri Besar Zambry Kadir and his six executive councilors for 18 months and 12 months respectively from the assembly are valid

c) which of the two is rightful Menteri Besar

All these three issues are now being legally contested in a web of suits and counter suits in the high courts, the eventual outcomes of which may take years to decide as they wiggle their ways to the higher courts. The obvious, and in fact the only practical solution to the stalemate, is a dissolution of the assembly and return the mandate to the people of Perak.  Failing which, the Perak crisis will continue to fester as unbearable political and economic sore to not only Perakians but to all Malaysians.

Meanwhile, BN must not be too quick to celebrate their ‘success’ in physically evicting the incumbent Pakatan speaker Sivakumar, as physical eviction is not necessary the same as legal eviction.  As rightly pointed out by Pakatan Menteri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin and speaker Sivakumar, the motion of no confidence in speaker Sivakumar was null and void as he had not even convened the meeting yet when the motion was proposed by Zambry.  Besides, Siva had already issued a letter of rejection of the motion a day earlier, in exercise of his right under the standing orders.

As for the police violation of the Constitution, the prime culprits ultimately responsible for this debacle are the Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan and Home Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.  In any established democracy, they will have to defend their honour by offering to resign. However, short of resignation, the least they should do now is to offer an apology to the nation.