Hornbill Unleashed

May 24, 2014

Terengganu crisis resolved at the expense of democratic principles

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:00 AM
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Najib (Left) and Ahmad (Right) greeting each other at Ahmad's daughter's wedding reception recentlyAbdul Aziz Bari

Najib (Left) and Ahmad (Right) greeting each other at Ahmad’s daughter’s wedding reception recently
Terengganu crisis resolved at the expense of democratic principles

If we were to draw an analogy between the recent Terengganu political crisis and a football match it would be like a match that was wrongly prolonged in order to allow the preferred team to score the winning or the equalizing goal.

In any case that was not the only occasion when Umno-BN was given the advantage by the keepers of the system who are supposed to be neutral and should only have democracy and the Constitution as their guiding principles.

We have a similar situation in Perak five years ago when there was a “hung parliament” in the state assembly when both Umno-BN and Pakatan Rakyat had the same number of seats. But instead of dissolving the house as requested by the sitting Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Nizar Jamaluddin, the Sultan chose to dismiss him and appointed Umno-BN’s Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Kadir in the former’s place.

While some may contend that the Sultan’s option had constitutional justification, arguably such was not the only way out let alone the best one. Way back in 1994 we had a comparable scenario involving Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan in Sabah whose PBS government was put under siege following a spate of crossovers to Umno-BN. His request to have the house dissolved was rejected by the state Yang di-Pertua Negeri and he had to tender his resignation as chief minister.

Umno-BN, through its media establishments, is always working to have the system favourable to it. And most of the time this is done at the expense of democracy and the true spirit of the Constitution. Thus when Pakatan tried to change guards in the Selangor state administration, the pro-Umno-BN media started to play on the Sultan’s role and consent when actually there was none as Pakatan not only has a working majority but in fact a two-thirds majority in the house. Somehow Umno-BN’s hypocrisy and inconsistency became evident when the change in the Sarawak state leadership came not too long after the Selangor incident. It is to be stated that in law the power of the Sultan of Selangor and that of the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sarawak is the same: both have no say when the ruling party has the majority.

One has to say that Umno-BN’s tricks are not confined to just media manipulation. When the going gets tough these players have no qualms playing rough. Experience has shown that they would even resort to state powers including emergency declaration when ordinary tricks like media manipulation failed to deliver.

That is what happened in Sarawak in 1966 and in Kelantan in 1977. On those two occasions the federal government – under Tunku Abdul Rahman and Datuk Hussein Onn respectively – imposed emergency rule and took over the two states. In those two crises the states refused to toe the line and both the court (in Sarawak) and the palace (in Kelantan) took the options that were more in line with democracy and the ideals envisaged by the Constitution.

It would be recalled that the dismissal of the Sarawak chief minister who stood up against Kuala Lumpur was declared illegal by the court. In the case of Kelantan, the palace rejected the dissolution request made by the sitting menteri besar who was validly voted out of office by the Kelantan state assembly.

Be that as it may, both Sarawak and Kelantan were eventually captured by Umno-BN in the snap state elections that were held after the emergency was lifted. While Kelantan was recaptured by PAS in 1990, Sarawak remains under Umno-BN control through PBB and its allies.

Back to the Terengganu crisis, no one except Umno-BN diehards would have believed that the sitting government would have survived. For one thing it was actually worse than what prevailed in Perak during the early 2009 crisis.

Najib (left) and Ahmad (second from right) at Ahmad's daughter's receptionIndeed at one point the Terengganu state government was arguably illegal. It would be recalled that after Datuk Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman was sworn in by the Sultan as the new menteri besar on May 12 – following the purported resignation of his predecessor Datuk Seri Ahmad Said an hour earlier – a series of resignations ensued. Apparently agitated, Ahmad Said even left Umno, followed by his two loyalists. Their resignations reduced Umno-BN’s strength to just 14 assemblymen including the newly-appointed menteri besar as opposed to Pakatan’s 15 members.

Going by the Constitution, Ahmad Razif was indeed under a duty to tender the resignation of the entire government failing which the Sultan may dismiss him. Alternatively it was open to the public to ask for an order of mandamus from the court in order to compel the collapsing Ahmad Razif administration to resign.


However, this did not take place. On the contrary the Umno-BN government chose to be defiant and the state legal advisor Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid even had the cheek to declare that the government could continue as it has 15 members, apparently taking into account the appointed member who is the Speaker.

As the state police chief gave the assurance that the situation “was under control”, Umno-BN worked hard behind closed doors to get Ahmad Said and his supporters back to the fold, something which they successfully did in less than 48 hours.


1 Comment »

  1. Najib to that ex-MB: I Help You, You help Me!
    After that kow-tim!

    Comment by Ajil Wahidi — May 24, 2014 @ 10:28 AM | Reply

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