KUALA LUMPUR, MON: JUl 21, 2008
The Rulers feel that their roles are not merely to complement the customs of the country because "they are neither blind, deaf nor mute" or insensitive to the goings on in the country, said Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.
The frank opinions of the Rulers in matters concerning national unity, the role of religion, freedom of the judiciary as well as corruption and abuse of power were made out of their desire to ensure that the country continued to be strong and peaceful, and the people lived in prosperity, he said.
Everyting that transpired were within their knowledge, said Raja Nazrin, who is the Raja Muda of Perak, at a talk entitled "The Institution of the Monarchy" at Intan today.
He said that after 50 years of independence, the Rulers had reached a level of maturity by understanding their roles especially when the country faced a crisis.
However, in order to preserve respect for the monarchy, the Rulers must remain neutral and avoid from being involved in political disputes or being used as an instrument by any quarters in the competition to gain political power, Raja Nazrin said.
"In line with the spirit of the Constitutional Monarchy which is normally practised, the role of the Ruler is to rule and not to administer. The Ruler must be above politics and the daily administrative matters which involves bureaucracy and various controversies.
"As he sits on the throne which is on a higher level, The Ruler is only involved whenever the situation warrants it," said Raja Nazrin.
The national constitution, he said, provided that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Rulers had the discretion which could be applied according to their Royal prerogative subject to certain constraints.
"The prerogative of the Ruling Monarch encompasses the power to appoint the Prime Minister at the federal level and to appoint the Menteri Besar at the state level, and the right to give consent to the dissolution of Parliament at the federal level and the State Legislative Assembly at the state level.
"In matters concerning the appointment of the Prime Minister and the Menteri Besar, the prerogative of the Ruling Monarch is not absolute. He is in a position where he has the right to determine who has the support of the majority of the elected representatives in parliament or the State Legislative Assembly. The discretion of the Ruler is crucial when there is no single party that holds the majority in the Dewan Rakyat or the State Assembly or whenever a coalition goverment is to be formed," he said.
In such a situation, said Raja Nazrin, the ruling Monarch could act in his own discretion to decide on the leader who was considered to have the majority support of the elected representatives, and the failure to use his discretion wisely would be interpreted by the people as a failure on the part of the Ruling monarch to discharge his responsibilities fairly and equitably.
He said the result of the general election in March had placed a heavy responsibility on the Istana Perak, where based on the results, the group claiming to have the majority support appeared to be vague.
In the March 8 general election, Barisan Nasional (BN) won 28 of the 59 State Assembly seats contested in Perak while the DAP won 18 seats, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) seven seats and PAS six seats.
The DAP, PKR and PAS collectively won 31 seats but, according to Raja Nazrin, they must reach a consensus officially to choose a candidate who could convince the ruling Monarch that he could obtain the majority support of the State Assemblymen.
"They had to undergo a lengthy process before the Menteri Besar could be sworn in and the letter of appointment presented to him," he said.
He also cited the case of Selangor where the BN won 20 seats, the PKR 15, DAP 13 and PAS eight.
"Although the DAP-PKR-PAS combination showed a clear majority, the Sultan of Selangor still had to ensure that the candidate that he consented to was accepted by the three parties that wished to set up a coalition government," Raja Nazrin said.
He said the Menteri Besar crisis also occurred in Perlis where the BN controlled 14 of the 15 seats contested.
Raja Nazrin said although Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim was the only candidate that had the blessing of the federal leader to retain his post as the Perlis Menteri Besar, a scenario cropped up where “a party within a party” existed when the candidate chosen by the BN chairman (Prime Minister) at the federal level did not get the support of the majority of the BN State Assemblymen at the state level.
“Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim was said to have failed to meet the instruction of the Duli Yang Maha Mulia Raja Perlis to bring the majority of the State Assemblymen to have an audience with the Ruler to give their support to him. The Ruler then appointed the candidate whom he felt had the support of the majority of the Assemblymen,” Raja Nazrin said.
The senario in Terengganu however “tested the relationship between the Monarchy and the people,” he said.
The Raja Muda said the candidate named by the BN chairman to fill the post of Menteri Besar did not get the consent of the Istana.
He said there was disagreement among the BN State Assemblymen themselves as well as among the Umno leaders at the state level.
“Both parties had their own legal opinion based on the advice of their respective legal experts. Extensive negotiations were held behind the scene,” he said.
Raja Nazrin said the Regency Advisory Council (in Terengganu) refused to back down from their stand based on the principle that the prerogative to appoint the Menteri Besar lie with the ruling Monarch.
“It cannot be denied that in every crisis there are crucial moments, but the maturity in running the administration and country and the willingness of the individuals to make way for the sake of the country and people had helped to resolve the crisis, and thus harmony was again restored and the government eventually managed to function,” Raja Nazrin said.
He said the role of the Ruler in matters pertaining to the appointment of the Menteri Besar in the four states concerned was within the jurisdiction of the ruling Monarch in line with the power provided by the Constitution.
Raja Nazrin also said that the immediate transfer order issued to the Director of the Perak Islamic Religious Department by the DAP-PKR-PAS government had also encroached into the power of the ruling Monarch because religion and all matters pertaining to it were under the prerogative of the ruling Monarch.
He said the ruling Monarch had a massive responsibility in ensuring that the spirit of the constitution, the philosophy behind every law and the bigger interest of the nation and people must always be understood and protected.
“In upholding this spirit, the Council of Rulers is the best forum for the Rulers to voice their opinion and determine their stand with regard to the candidates to be chosen as judges, the Auditor-General and members of the various commissions.
“What needs to be emphasised is that the Rulers should not abuse their prerogative to the extent that they contradicted the constitution and the law.
Secondly, the Rulers are a part of the national institution who could play a positive role in strengthening the system of democracy by discharging their responsibilities as a ’check and balance’ mechanism in protecting the interest of the people,” said Raja Nazrin