Constitutional Showdown - What Next?

Constitutional Showdown - What Next?

A constitutional crisis can have its upsides. Sarawak Report is not referring to the Law Minister having a heart attack nor to the attempted flight of the toady Speaker to foreign parts: it settles matters, hopefully for the best.

Malaysia is a young democracy meaning that certain boundaries must still be tested and conventions established and today and this weekend through various clear and irrefutable methods the people of Malaysia and their Parliamentarians showed what they will not tolerate and why.

The crowning moment came today following brave street protests by young people and an outpouring on social media, when the MAJORITY of members of Parliament demonstrated their numbers in person by walking in defiance of riot police threatening tear gas and water cannons to the gate of their own building which a minority usurper had slammed shut.

Crucially, these ‘opposition’ MPs, who now count themselves to be at least 114 out of 220, have received the open backing of the King who has rightly demanded that the prime minister he originally appointed should submit himself to a vote of parliament to test his discredited claim to hold its confidence.

The PM has refused, claiming a sudden threat from “super-spreader individuals” apparently identified in last week’s Covid screen of Parliament… brought to the attention of MPs shortly after the King’s critical speech was read out on the floor of the House and a panicking deputy Speaker suspended proceedings.

The country thinks this prime minister has played the Covid card much too often to avoid his democratic accountabilities and all the while the disease has got worse along with people’s lives in general.

So here is the crisis to be resolved. On the one hand you have a minority prime minister appointed by the King who has now openly withdrawn that approval. Backing him are a fractious bunch of disunited and discredited MPs (many facing charges) plus his appointed functionaries, including an unelected Speaker who has played the enemy to the lower house instead of leading it.

Mahiaddin’s team also includes a craven Director General of Health who changes his advice to suit his boss’s politics and an IGP who was today prepared to have his men point water cannon in the faces of representatives of the people as they walked peacefully through the streets of their own capital towards their own seat of governance.

Hmm. On the other side are the majority of elected MPs, The King and the people. Not only does this representative challenge hold moral legitimacy in the context of a democracy, but they have the Constitution on their side:

The King appointed Mahiaddin and he consented to the State of Emergency, but both need to be tested by a vote of Parliament which the King has demanded the prime minister should do. However, the prime minister has refused. That is unconstitutional.

Citing his Director General of Health the prime minister has reneged on a promise he made (according to the King) to hold that vote. Through an attempt at a legal sleight of hand he pretended he had ‘revoked’ the emergency instead, although in fact he merely let it lapse thereby allowing the emergency provisions (including his freedom to loot the nation’s coffers) to continue for a further six months.

That was the confrontation, so how has it been playing out as the two sides stare each other down after a weekend of to-ing and fro-ing by ministers and the like?

First move: it has emerged the Law Minister who fronted all these outrages on behalf of Mahiaddin, had collapsed with a heart attack on Friday after the King thunderously called him out on all these lies. For a lawyer, even of the slipperiest kind, that dressing down was the stuff of professional nightmares and the country all applauded.

Next, it emerged the Speaker, who had until Sunday been scheduled to perform his extremely well rewarded job ie to supervise a crucial sitting of Parliament that he had put off till Monday, turned out to have been planning to attend another pressing engagement abroad that day (trip aborted last minute).*

The Director General of Health, meanwhile has gone from Hero to Zero on social media.

Young folk hit the streets in defiance of his ludicrously conflicting and plainly political constraints and given they behaved so well and had the country rooting for them the police dared not hurt them.

And now today, despite the jaded cynicism of the nation, the opposition majority of MPs did the needful. They showed courage and they showed unity and they demonstrated their majority in the only way they were able by marching in unison and counting their numbers outside their gate.

The momentum is clear, the popular view is clear and the King is clear. Today, the leaders of the opposition, including Anwar Ibrahim who heads the largest group, made clear they are now being approached by those fleeing the sinking ship.

This Constitutional crisis is being resolved and the right precedents and principles are being set. It may not turn out to have been so bad after all if a majority of MPs moves forward to solve the people’s problems at last.

[*This is updated and corrected as we understand the Speaker in the end was not able to fly out last night.]

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