Friday, February 20, 2009

Prefer fresh elections in Perak rather than some proclamation of Emergency

I have nothing to comment or add, but just share this Malaysiakini report that looks at what happened in the past in similar situations like what we have in Perak today...

In the past, UMNO-led coalition just cannot face the fact that they can lose - hence, they will even sometimes use declarations of Emergency just to stay in power...

It is this fear - that makes it so difficult to register new political parties.

It is this fear that makes it very difficult for opposition to UMNO political parties to expand their influences...restrictions on publications, restrictions on gatherings and functions, restriction....restrictions, etc..

The loss of 5 states was a bit too much to handle...and some other Prime Minister may have just resorted to some declaration of Emergency so that UMNO-led coalitions stay in power.

But, this Najib who hopes to be the next Prime Minister possibly after March, is not like Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and may resort to all kinds of tactics (clean or dirty) to wrest back power..and to also re-inforce the fear in Malaysian to ensure that they never again vote against UMNO-led BN...

Let's not forget, that there are some who do suggest that his father had a hand in bringing about 'May 13', with the object of forcing our 1st Prime Minister to quit so that he could take over as Prime Minister.

Najib, like his father, is impatient to get into the seat of power...and that is why we see Abdullah Ahmad Badawi being forced out earlier than should be as Presiden of UMNO...(But then Abdullah did the same to Najib's uncle, Dr Mahathir, did he not?)

Sarawak, Kelantan and Sabah have all faced a similar constitutional crisis affecting Perak today - in 1966, 1977 and 1985 respectively.


Sarawak 1966

HP Lee has written about the incident estensively in his 'Constitutional Conflicts in Contemporary Malaysia'.

On July 22, 1963, Stephen Kalong Ningkan was appointed as chief minister of Sarawak.

sarawak natives dayakThree years later, on June 16, 1966, Sarawak governor Abang Haji Openg called for Ningkan’s resignation with the support from majority members of the state legislature of Sarawak, also known as Council Negri. Openg and members of the council had lost confidence in Ningkan’s leadership.

Instead, Ningkan urged a reconvening of the state assembly to test the motion of no-confidence. In a move to dismiss Ningkan, the governor and state cabinet members appointed Tawi Sli as new chief minister on June 17, 1966.

Ningkan went on to institute legal proceedings at the Kuching High Court to declare his dismissal as void and to restrain Tawi Sli from acting as Sarawak chief minister.

During the trial, Openg stated he dismissed Ningkan upon receiving a letter of no-confidence signed by 21 members of the state assembly. In his judgment, chief justice Harley Ag ruled that the dismissal of Ningkan was void.

He concluded that based on the provisions of the Sarawak constitution, the lack of confidence can only be demonstrated by vote in the state assembly. Ningkan was reinstated.

Not giving up, Tawi Sli and Openg subsequently requested the reconvening of the state legislative assembly. A motion of no-confidence was moved. Openg had signed statutory declarations from 25 state legislative assembly members.

Ningkan retaliated by calling for a dissolution of the state assembly and for fresh state elections to take place. Openg refused as the position of a governor provided him with absolute discretion in matters of state assembly dissolution.

Under these circumstances, the Agong proclaimed a state of emergency and Parliament passed the Emergency (Federal Constitution and Constitution of Sarawak) Act 1966.

The Act resolved the constitutional crisis in Sarawak by empowering the governor to convene the state legislative assembly at his absolute discretion. The power to dismiss the chief minister, should he fail to resign due to a vote of no-confidence, was also bestowed upon the governor.

Kelantan 1977

pas and kelantanPAS joined the Alliance government in 1973 and was acknowledged to have a stronghold in the state of Kelantan. After the formation of Barisan Nasional in 1974, Umno’s promise of non-interference was not kept.

At the state level, the Umno-PAS rivalry intensified leading eventually to PAS’ decision to remove the incumbent Menteri Besar Mohamed Nasir for defying party instructions in 1977.

Mohd Nasir appeared more a recalcitrant than an Umno convert, but his defiance towards the PAS leadership gave Umno a golden opportunity to intervene. PAS called for his resignation, but Mohd Nasir refused and presented himself as the champion of an honest and clean government against corrupt and self-serving politicians.

A motion of no-confidence was tabled in the Kelantan state assembly and was supported by 20 PAS votes after 13 Umno and one MCA assembly members walked out in a show of protest.

A legal impasse ensued when Mohd Nasir called for the dissolution of the state assembly. His supporters took to the streets, leading to violence and looting.

At the federal level, Hussein Onn took over prime ministership following Tun Abdul Razak’s untimely death. This prompted the federal government to ask the Agong to declare a state of emergency and curfew in Kota Bharu in 1977.

HP Lee in his book notes that Hussein Onn invoked Article 150 of the Federal Constitution - relating to the proclamation of emergency - to deal with the problem.

An emergency bill for Kelantan, pending a new state election, was rushed through Parliament and passed with 118 votes in support and 18 against.

Of the 14 PAS members, 12 voted against while all six DAP members also opposed the motion. The bill is known as the Emergency Powers (Kelantan) Act 1977.

PAS members who held office in the BN government resigned but said they wanted to remain in BN. However, the BN supreme council decided to expel all members who had voted against the Kelantan Emergency Bill.

The state of emergency was later lifted in February 1978, allowing the state election to be held the following month, with Umno going on to form the state government after defeating PAS.

Sabah 1985

Berjaya under the leadership of then Chief Minister Harris Salleh lost Sabah in the 1985 state election to Joseph Pairin Kitingan's Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS).

PBS controlled 26 seats in the 48-seat state assembly. United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) led by Mustapha Harun won 16 seats while Berjaya only garnered six seats.

In an attempt to seize the state from PBS, Gordon P Means in 'Malaysian Politics: The Second Generation' explained: “Harris Salleh conceived of a scheme to deny his arch-rival and critic, Joseph Pairin Kitingan, of the fruits of victory. Under the Sabah constitution… the chief minister had the power to appoint six non-elected assemblymen.

“Berjaya, with its six appointed members would support Tun Mustapha for chief minister, who with Usno’s 16 elected members and the six appointed members would constitute a majority of 28 in the 48-member assembly.

"By this move, Berjaya would also have the power to force a new election at any favourable moment so as to recoup its losses.”

According to Ling Jiew Bu in 'The Night That Shook Sabah', "the Tun Mustapha writ stated that the incident was called 'palace coup'. Mustapha Harun along with his supporters entered the residence of the Sabah governor in the middle of the night, forcing the governor to appoint him chief minister on April 22, 1985 at 5.30am."

The appointment was revoked the same day as Pairin was appointed and sworn in as chief minister. Mustapha Harun claimed that the governor’s revocation of his appointment as chief minister on April 22 was ultra vires in court.

Justice Tan Chiaw Thong of the High Court dismissed Mustapha’s claim based on Article 6(3) of the Sabah state constitution.

No-confidence vote essential

How are all these crises relevant to the current Perak crisis?

They go to prove that a motion of no-confidence is essential in the removal of a chief minister or the current government. Failure to do so would open the option for a state of emergency. - Malaysiakini, 19/2/2009, Constitutional crises in the past

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