Friday, February 15, 2008

Pakar Perlembangaan beri penjelasan / Caretaker gov�t: logic and the law

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Pakar Perlembangaan beri penjelasan mengenai bubar Parlimen

Oleh Tarmizi Mohd Jam
KUNCI atau kata putus dalam pembubaran parlimen � atau lebih tepat lagi Dewan Rakyat � terletak di tangan Yang di Pertuan Agong. Ini jelas disebut oleh Perkara 40(2)(b) Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan dijelaskan oleh Suruhanjaya Reid dalam laporan mereka pada 1957,� demikian ditegaskan oleh Profesor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari ketika dihubungi hari ini.

Beliau yang mengajar Undang-Undang Perlembagaan di Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIAM), Gombak memberi reaksi terhadap tulisan seorang penganalisa politik, Kim Quek dalam satu artikelnya yang tersiar di Malaysiakini. Com minggu lalu.

Dalam artikel tersebut, Kim Quek menanyakan soalan sama ada Yang di Pertuan Agong boleh menolak atau tidak permintaan membubarkan dewan oleh Perdana Menteri.

�Soalan itu sebenarnya tidak berbangkit langsung kerana perlembagaan sendiri dengan jelas mengatakan ia budi bicara Yang di Pertuan Agong�, tegas Dr. Abdul Aziz.

Pakar perlembagaan itu seterusnya menyatakan bahawa kuasa itu adalah kuasa budi bicara atau prerogatif yang lazim di semua negara Westminster di seluruh dunia termasuk Australia dan India dan juga di negara asalnya United Kingdom.

Kuasa berkenaan juga, katanya disebut dalam Perlembagaan- Perlembagaan Negeri dan ini bermakna Raja-Raja dan para Yang di Pertua Negeri juga boleh menolak permintaan untuk membubarkan dewan.

Setakat ini tegas Dr. Abdul Aziz, tidak pernah berlaku penolakan seperti itu di peringkat Persekutuan.

�Bagaimanapun di peringkat negeri telah beberapa kali permintaan untuk membubarkan dewan yang dibuat oleh kerajaan negeri ditolak,� ujar beliau lagi.

Penolakan ini terjadi kali pertamanya pada tahun 1962 di Terengganu, kemudian di Kelantan pada 1977 dan akhir sekali di Sabah pada 1994.

Di sisi Perlembagaan, ujarnya, pembubaran dewan di peringkat pusat dan negeri-negeri tidak ada kaitan; ertinya pembubaran di peringkat Persekutuan tidak semestinya diikuti oleh pembubaran di negeri-negeri.

�Itu adalah urusan antara Raja atau Yang di-Pertua Negeri dengan Menteri Besar atau Ketua Menteri berkenaan.�

Mengenai alasan kenapa Yang di-Pertuan Agong boleh menolak permintaan Perdana Menteri, Dr Abdul Aziz menyatakan bahawa Perlembagaan menyerahkan soal itu kepada kebijaksanaan baginda.

�Itulah yang disyorkan oleh Suruhanjaya Reid dalam laporan mereka. Tetapi pengalaman di banyak negara Komanwel dalam isu ini boleh dirujuk. Perlembagaan sendiri tidak memberi sebarang petunjuk,� tegasnya.

Tentang kerajaan sementara yang dibangkitkan oleh Ketua Pembangkang, Lim Kit Siang dua hari lalu, pensyarah kristis itu menegaskan bahawa Perlembagaan Persekutuan tidak menyebut dengan jelas tentang soal itu.

Bagaimanapun, katanya, Perlembagaan ada membayangkan konsep itu dalam Perkara 43(2) tatkala menyebut perlantikan Perdana Menteri ketika dewan sudah dibubarkan.

Walau apa pun, konsepnya jelas dan negara-negara yang komited dengan demokrasi tulen seperti Britain, Australia dan India mengamalkan konsep itu tanpa soal.

Adalah tidak logik bagi sesebuah kerajaan yang bergantung kepada mandat sebuah dewan yang sudah pun dibubarkan untuk membuat janji dan dasar yang hebat-hebat, tegasnya.

Dalam soal-soal ini, kata Dr Abdul Aziz lagi, perlu ada golongan yang komited dan terus memperjuangkannya. Ini kerana pihak-pihak yang sepatutnya berada di hadapan seperti kerajaan yang ada dan pihak SPR sendiri sengaja memutarbelit konsep berkenaan.

Selain itu, tegasnya mahkamah juga tidak berbuat apa-apa; ia malah membenarkan menteri berkempen dan membuat janji semasa kempen pilihan raya dalam satu pilihan raya kecil pada 1981.

Bagi Dr. Abdul Aziz, kes ini jelas menunjukkan bahawa hakim sendiri gagal memahami apa itu pilihan raya yang bebas dan adil.

�Bagaimanapun kita perlu menyokong insiatif dan komitmen Ketua Pembangkang dan BERSIH sendiri yang sebenarnya cuba mendidik rakyat dalam soal ini.

�Saya ingat lagi dalam tahun 1995 Aliran ada menyebut soal �kerajaan sementara� ini dalam penerbitan bulanan mereka,� tegas beliau sambil mengharapkan usaha-usaha seperti ini akan memberi impak besar dalam memperkasa kualiti demokrasi di Malaysia.

BERSIH

Caretaker gov�t: logic and the law

Malaysiakini
Abdul Aziz Bari | Feb 14, 08
The legal basis of a caretaker government has to be argued in light of the nature of a government in a parliamentary system like ours. Of course, given its role and function, there is room to argue that a caretaker government is not something that is absolutely necessary. For one thing it is just for a short period and that it merely carries out routine administration.

This is plausible given that the civil service - which includes the armed forces and the police force - are still around. Indeed, the system which includes the judiciary - except the government of the day - still exists and is operational. On top of that, the ultimate guardian of the constitution - the Yang di Pertuan Agong - is still there symbolising the nation.

Be that as it may, under our system, one under the Westminster type, the government of the day is not directly elected by the people. Unlike under the American system whereby the executive is directly put in office by the electorate, the cabinet in the British system is appointed by the head of state from among members of the legislature.

Of course, one has to bear in mind that although the appointment is made by the Yang di Pertuan Agong acting under his discretion, he has to follow certain established rules. Indeed, these rules have been incorporated into the constitution; namely Article 43(2)(a) of the federal constitution.

In any case as politicians and political parties would not want to allow a hung parliament which would put the King in a position to exercise real discretionary power and they have devised a strategy which reduces the power of the King to appoint the government - termed Article .40(2)(a) of the federal constitution.

Under this article, the appointment of the prime minister is a a matter of pure formality with no real discretion being exercised. In our case, the ruling coalition has always made it clear who their leader and prime minister was and the Yang di Pertuan Agong has just been there as a mere figure handing out appointment letter to successive prime ministers.

Under the presence composition of the Dewan Rakyat, the King must appoint someone who commands the support of the majority of the members of that lower house. Under the present provision, the person must at least have the backing of 112 members of Parliament.

Like in other Westminster constitutions, the federal constitution makes it clear that should the prime minister - who is also the lynchpin of the cabinet - lose support he must resign. Normally, this takes place through a vote of no confidence. The federal constitution makes this clear in Article 43(4).

As the government stands on the strength of its support in Parliament, it is only logical that once it ceases to command a majority support it has no grounds to continue and must resign.

Having seen the relationship between the government and parliament in Westminster, one now can understand why the government in a parliamentary democracy is termed as �responsible government�. This actually underlines the requirement that the government owes its existence to Parliament and needs to be answerable to the legislature. This is indeed what Article 43(3) of the constitution is all about. This provision requires the government of the day - namely the cabinet - to be responsible to Parliament.

Here lies the basis for question-time in Parliament whereby the prime minister and the cabinet are supposed to explain to Parliament matters pertaining to the government and their policies.

Draconian laws passed
The relationship between government and parliament explains the role and function of caretaker government or perhaps more accurately, its limitations. Since the foundation of the government is the House, it automatically ceases to exist the moment parliament - or more correctly the Dewan Rakyat - is dissolved.

It is certainly illogical for the government to exist and continue when the very foundation on which it stands is no longer around. This alone is actually enough to argue that the concept of a caretaker government is implicit in the constitutional scheme of any Westminster type of constitution.

The nature of government in the system also implicitly tells us the limitations of a caretaker government and a government in a position to lay down policies and administer the nation due to the support it enjoyed in parliament.

The bottom line of all these explanations is that the Malaysian government essentially ceased to exist the moment the Yang di Pertuan Agong consented to the prime minister�s request to dissolve the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

It may be argued that there is no need for the Yang di Pertuan Agong to make a formal appointment for a caretaker prime minister or government as this is implicit in the act of dissolution made by His Majesty. But of course it would be better if there is a formal appointment for things would be made clearer and less doubtful.

Unfortunately, our successive governments since Merdeka never committed themselves to this fundamental principle. In fact, after the 1969 general elections, the �caretaker� made an emergency proclamation. A number of draconian laws were made under this proclamation and continue to be operative until today.

It was unfortunate that some 31 years later, the Federal Court upheld that executive action. It appears that the judges of the highest court of the land overlooked the notion of a caretaker government within our constitutional structure.

It is true that the constitution does not mention the word �caretaker government� in any of its provisions. However, anyone who understands the nature of the cabinet as �responsible government� would straight away recognise the existence of such an entity within the system.

In any case, after prescribing the way the prime minister and cabinet ministers are to be appointed under Article 43(2), the constitution says that a person appointed as prime minister while the House is dissolved shall not continue to hold the office when the new parliament begins after the elections. This undoubtedly refers to a caretaker government.

It has to be admitted that the legitimacy and basis of a caretaker government can only be appreciated through a comprehensive understanding of government in a Westminster system, something that was incorporated into the constitution by the Reid Commission way back in 1957.

Constitutionally improper
One also needs to see the constitution as a democratic instrument. It is certainly illogical and indeed monstrous to suggest that a caretaker government could initiate new policies or drastic measures such as proclaiming a state of emergency.

Also implicit in the concept is the prohibition of the use government facilities for political advantage during an elections. In simple terms, one could say that as the government has ceased to exist, ministers no longer hold any portfolios and thus are not in a position to use their official car, staff and other state resources.

One must admit that in order to allow our democratic institutions and traditions to develop and grow, those entrusted with public power and duties must ensure that they follow not only the letter but also the spirit of the constitution.

On some occasions, however, this has been overlooked. These include the formation of federal government after the 1999 general elections which took place some 11 days after the results were announced.

This was constitutionally improper particularly when the prime minister of the then caretaker government was spending his time, among others, attending the annual Lima defence industry show. A government should have been appointed almost immediately after the general elections.

While the constitution does not specify a time-frame, it was certainly unacceptable to wait 11 days. For one thing, the Yang di Pertuan Agong has a duty to call upon the leader of the winning coalition to form the government. This cannot be delayed as the King is under a duty to act on advice.

It would be recalled that the delay eventually caused havoc and confusion in the opening of the parliament as the opposition raised the constitutionality of the government that was actually a caretaker one.

* Dr ABDUL AZIZ BARI is professor of law at the International Islamic University Malaysia.
(BERSIH! Kuala Terengganu, 22 February!)

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Daripada Abu Umarah iaitu al-Bara' bin 'Azib radhiallahu anhuma, katanya: "Kita semua diperintah oleh Rasulullah s.a.w. untuk melakukan tujuh perkara, iaitu meninjau orang sakit, mengikuti janazah, menentasymitkan orang yang bersin, menolong orang yang lemah, membantu orang yang teraniaya, meratakan salam dan melaksanakan sumpah."

(Muttafaq 'alaih)

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