The Menteri Besar’s glass slippers
Last Friday night at the Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur, constitutional law expert Aziz Bari laid out expressly that PAS’s action in nominating a second name for the Menteri Besar’s post has created an avenue for the Selangor Palace to wade into the state’s messy politics.
Aziz is of the view that the idea of “discretion” being bandied about by PAS and the public is not an “absolute discretion”. He says that the discretion exercisable by the sovereign ruler should be viewed in the context of democracy and a responsible government, and thus the provisions of the State Constitution still hold true.
On Aug 17, PAS in a special session of it’s Central Working Committee, ended public speculation about it’s continued support for Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim by nominating Wan Azizah Ismail and Azmin Ali for the job.
But then it is purported that both Wan Azizah and Azmin are not Selangoreans by birth. And this has not missed the scrutiny of Malay rights NGO Perkasa, which has been pressing for a true-born Selangorean to get the job.
According to Section 53.3 of the Selangor State Constitution, “Notwithstanding anything in this Article, a person who is a citizen by naturalisation or by registration under Article 17 of the Federal Constitution shall not be appointed a Menteri Besar.”
PAS has wittingly or unwittingly put the Sultan in the delicate position of having to accept either candidate against the provisions of the State Constitution, or go against the majority of the legislative assembly and, by extension, the rakyat.
To circumvent the Hobson’s choice above by a dissolution of the legislature would be most unpopular as the house is still overwhelmingly dominated by Pakatan Rakyat, unlike the hung Perak State Assembly in 2009. Even then the house was not dissolved.
To complicate matters even more, Section 53.4 of the State Constitution states that, “In appointing a Menteri Besar, His Highness may in his discretion dispense with any provision in this Constitution restricting his choice of a Menteri Besar, if in his opinion it is necessary to do so in order to comply with the provisions of this Article.”
The Hobson’s choice becomes a Gordian knot when Section 53.3 is read in conjunction with Section 53.4, because discretionary powers are granted the Sovereign Ruler to reject any provisions of the constitution in order to fulfil the spirit of the article.
If the Sultan of Selangor were to reject Wan Azizah on the ground that she is not Selangor born, then technically the same should apply to Azmin. This is taking into consideration the foregone conclusion that a motion of no confidence against Khalid has been passed and support for him is found wanting.
So what further options are open to the Sultan if the body of Pakatan Rakyat is to be kept alive?
It would appear that to fulfil the provisions of the article, the Sultan would need to exercise his discretionary power in either accepting Azizah and dispensing with Section 53.3 of the constitution, or by following the constitution to the letter and looking elsewhere within the house for a member of Pakatan who best fits the glass slipper.
Will PKR risk injuring further it’s already shaky standing with the Selangor electorate by by-passing it’s two top leaders for a third nominee, or does it have any Selangor born Malays to nominate?
DAP does not yet have any amongst its members of the House who fulfils substantively the conditions for eligibility to the Menteri Besar’s post as laid down in the constitution—until it transforms its party membership profile post-haste to better reflect the ethnic composition in Selangor.
Now that the Sultan is home, the rakyat will be wondering which of the shadow players will be waltzing at the ball, but what if the Menteri Besar’s glass slippers won’t fit Wan Azizah or Azmin and there are no Cinderellas in DAP. Will PAS come to the ball?