Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Perak Putsch


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The Honourable Speaker! being dragged out of the Dewan

This is my personal opinion only.

It's May Day for Justice. I am not referring to the book written by Tun Salleh Abas. I am referring to the May 7 Putsch in Perak and the despicable behaviour of lawmakers. It was actually a Coup d'├ętat that will surely guarantee the plotters and perpetrators an ignominious place in history.

All the PR had to do was to give enough rope for the BN people to hang themselves. If it was a putsch, then like such similar events in history, the Munich Beer Hall Putsch and the Algiers Putsch, they will fail. This one in Perak will fail to endear UMNO and BN with the people.

I have been asked about the Perak DUN Perak episode this morning. My opinions are as relevant as the next fellow's. That means, we can't avoid being judgemental. Either we accept or we don't accept what has happened. The following is my personal opinion not necessarily reflecting that of the majority in UMNO.

If we are for it, we can find 1001 excuses to support it. If we are against it, we shall find a similar number of rebuttals. As for me, I will echo what a senior UMNO leader ( who is presently in the government) said in another situation. It has come to a stage where even we (ministers) feel ashamed to ask people to vote for us. This latest Perak Putsch just builds up the resentment of the people.

The general opinion from people on the street? It is not acceptable and further injures UMNO being the backbone of the BN government.

What happened in Perak is no longer amenable to legal niceties. The top legal eagles will have their day in court and if the judiciary is full of correct-correct-correct judges, the decision of the court of law will no longer be relevant. The court of public opinion and the sentence that will follow suit overwhelms everything- you and I, the lawyers and constitutional experts.

Perak will become the political quicksand that will drag Dato Najib in. Unless he gets out from the quicksand either by being pulled out or grabbing a pole as we see in the movies, Perak will prove to be his political waterloo. That will mean, the victory he secured over Anwar Ibrahim in persuading the 3 guys to quit PR, is a pyrrhic victory.

The only honourable thing to do is to remit the whole thing to the rakyat and that means calling for a fresh elections. It's better for UMNO to lose honourably than to win detestably. Unless of course we are deaf to the resentment building up among the rakyat, we will insist on staying. That resentment has reached a stage where what UMNO says is no longer believable and where lies dished out Pakatan and its high priest Anwar are believable. We lose more by our obstinacy.

The thing that people remember was the speaker being forcibly carried out. The photo (above) showing the poor speaker being dragged out will be forever etched in the mind of millions. It was high-handedness at its most foulest.

Let's discuss this a bit.

The House enjoys a stature of sanctity. It cannot be violated. Its proceedings and deliberations therein are unimpeachable. The lawmakers performing their duties in session enjoy immunity. The master of the House is the speaker. His person cannot be violated. Only he rules supreme. Not the clerk on duty. Not the secretary of the dewan. Not the sergeant-at-arms. These are servant status obliging what the Master instructs.

If it's accepted that what is said in the Dewan enjoys immunity, there is a stronger reason to accept the principle that the authorised persons in the dewan is inviolable.

Who were the people violating the speaker? Can they be in the dewan in the first place? Who ordered the physical ejection? Was it the deputy speaker? On what standing? The speaker cannot be deemed to be absent from proceedings. He has not been removed. In order to have him removed, there must be a motion and if the motion is allowed by the speaker, it is deliberated and finally a vote taken. Was there a motion and was it debated?

The prerogative of accepting or rejecting any motion lies with the speaker. If he disallows a particular motion, there is nothing anyone can do about it. Even written questions need to be submitted to the speaker- he sifts through those question and allows those he judges to be allowable.

Anwar Ibrahim and the PR parliamentarians have moved to table several motions but in the end, the speaker decides whether to allow them, to be heard. It is not the case of whether can allow or refuse to allow. Everything can be allowed provided the speaker allowed them. The speaker is the master of the house.

How do you remove a sitting speaker?

As a former ADUN, in my opinion, the speaker can be removed by presenting a question of privilege and declaring the office of speaker vacant. I think the removal of a sitting speaker cannot be done through the courts.

The next question we ask, what is a Question of Privilege? If what is practiced here is the same as those practised elsewhere in countries that follow the Westminster style of Democracy, then Questions of privilege shall be, first, those affecting the rights of the House collectively, its safety, dignity, and the integrity of its proceedings; and second, those affecting the rights, reputation, and conduct of Members, individually, in their representative capacity only.

A Question of Privilege also includes Questions relating to organization. Privileges of the House include questions relating to its organization and the title of its Members to their seats. Questions regarding these may be raised as questions of the privileges of the House even though the subject has been previously referred to committee. Such resolutions would include those to declare prima facie right to a seat, or to declare a vacancy.

A resolution electing a House officer is presented as a question of the privileges of the House. To me, a resolution declaring vacant the Office of the Speaker is a matter of high constitutional privilege. Privileges of the House, as distinguished from that of the individual Member, include questions relating to its constitutional prerogatives. The constitutional prerogatives of the House also include its function with respect to: impeachment and matters incidental thereto

In short, the rules of the Dewan provides for the removal of a seated Speaker, during session, for the purposes of preserving the dignity, and the integrity of its proceedings under the constitutional prerogative of its function with respect to impeachment. This can be done and MUST be done to reclaim the integrity of the Dewan and to hold this government accountable to the rule of law!

It is never accomplished by ordering people to drag out the speaker. The person/persons ordering must be referred to the committee of privileges. The Dewan is not a Balairaya where JKKK meetings are held. Otherwise, the ADUNs and all members therein, are just spruced up JKKK members.

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