Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has apologised for making an amendment to the Federal Constitution which makes it no longer necessary for the approval and signat
ure of Yang di-Pertuan Agong in legalising an act of Parliament.
The amendment to the Federal Constitution was passed in 1994, to allow any law that has been passed by both Parliament and Senate to become law within 30 days, irrespective of the Agong giving his assent.
Dr Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years from 1981 to 2003, said it would seem that due to the amendment, the new National Security (Council) Law had become operational even though the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had not signed it.
“However, I would like to point out that the amendment is not for all laws. Some laws passed by Parliament will still need the consent and signature of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. In fact, there are more than 30 proceedings listed in the constitution that still need the Agong’s approval, frequently without the advice of the prime minister.
“Among these rights and power is that of declaring a state of emergency. The state of emergency is reserved for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong because its implications are serious. It gives the government the right to suspend laws. With this right the government can arrest and detain any person without trial,” Dr Mahathir wrote in his blog yesterday.
Besides being superfluous, Dr Mahathir said the new National Security Act, by giving the power of the Agong to the prime minister was derogatory to the provision in Article 38 (4) which states: No law directly affecting the privileges, position, honours or dignities of the Rulers shall be passed without the consent of the ‘Conference of Rulers’.
“Clearly the National Security Act, by encroaching into the special position of the Conference of Rulers, is contrary to the rights of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to declare a state of emergency. For this Security Act to become law the consent and signature of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong are still needed.”
Dr Mahathir stated that the declaration of an emergency was one which the Constitution specified as being at the discretion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
He added that since the National Security Act was meant to give the power of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to the prime minister as chairman of the Security Council, the need for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to have the sole right to decide a state of Emergency became redundant.
“Effectively, the NSC has taken away the power and the right of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. For this to be done the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Conference of Rulers has to be obtained.
“Clearly when the government ignores the request of the Rulers and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to revise the NSC Act, it is not complying with the Constitution as amended. This being so the National Security Act cannot become law.”
On Feb 17, the Conference of Rulers asked for the NSC Bill to be refined, but this was not done. Following that, according to the national gazette, the NSC Bill was automatically assented the following day, on Feb 18. The bill was gazetted into law in June, and came into force on Aug 1.
Dr Mahathir said in declaring that the National Security Act was now legal even though it did not get the assent and signature of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was not adhering to the amendment to the Federal Constitution made when he was prime minister.
Jonathan Chia, firstname.lastname@example.org