Selangor row heading for constitutional impasse

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal and G. Manimaran, The Malaysian Insider

The controversial appointment of Datuk Mohd Khusrin Munawi as the Selangor state secretary may lead to a constitutional crisis if the Selangor Sultan carries out a planned swearing-in ceremony for the post on January 6.

Constitutional experts argued today that the ceremony, scheduled for next Thursday, was “unlawful” as the state constitution dictates that the oath of office has to be done in front of the Selangor mentri besar, and not the Selangor Sultan.

The Selangor government has insisted it has the final say in deciding the state secretary, after the Selangor Sultan agreed with Putrajaya to appoint Mohd Khusrin as state secretary despite Khalid having his own list of names for the top civil service post in the country’s wealthiest state.

It is understood however that outgoing state secretary Datuk Ramli Mahmud’s official oath of office was done in the presence of Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah back in March 2006, during the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) Selangor government.

“The Sultan has to seek legal advice from the state legal adviser before proceeding with this ceremony. On a matter like this, the Sultan acts on executive advice, His Highness cannot do it on his own. The concern is that if the ceremony is carried out, it can be declared null and void by a court of law. This is unconstitutional, as it is not within the provisions of the state constitution. The state constitution does not allow for this.

“It could lead into a constitutional crisis because it is not in line with the state constitution… but I hope this does not happen, that is why the Sultan must be extra careful before going through with this,” Karpal Singh told The Malaysian Insider.

The veteran lawyer revealed that he had been asked by Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim to look into the legal aspects of the matter personally.

“I am actually looking at the laws right now… I have been asked to help on behalf of the MB,” said the DAP lawmaker.

“The act of the Sultan can be taken up in a court of law,” added Karpal.

Article 52 (4) of the Selangor state constitution stipulates that the state secretary “shall take and subscribe in the presence of the Mentri Besar the following oath of secrecy.” There is no mention that the state secretary’s oath of office has to be done in the presence of the Sultan.
Constitutional expert Prof A. Aziz Bari claimed that the swearing-in ceremony of the state secretary in front of the Selangor Sultan was a “new practice,” saying that he was not aware that such a ceremony existed.

“As far as I know this is the first time such a ceremony is being held, even though I feel that it is only an official function and such a ceremony is not needed,” he told The Malaysian Insider.