Reopening of Parliament: Agong’s intervention in face of govt dawdling bodes well for rakyat

A battle royale is looming between the palace and the government, the former trying to assert its influence, while the latter, its authority.

This power play has to be viewed from the perspective of the history of the feudal system and the constitutional monarchy form of governance.

The essence of our governance was borne out of the feudal system, in which the monarch was the absolute and supreme ruler whose authority combined the functions of the legislative, judiciary and executive.

In the current system of constitutional monarchy, the Federal Constitution is the supreme authority that details explicitly the roles of the institutions of governance and the constitutional monarchs.

Governance now falls under the ambit of the people through their elected representatives, who in theory, prioritise the interests of the people and the nation.

Although the role of the monarchy would seem to be ceremonial and above the riffraff of the political schisms within the context of constitutional monarchy, there is a tacit understanding that they provide the check and balance to ensure accountability and forthright governance that prioritise the wellbeing of the people.

Despite the constitutional curbs imposed on them, they are still able to exert their authority in the appointments of the prime minister, menteris besar and the declaration of emergency.

Although at times they may have stepped beyond the threshold of their prerogatives, it was exercised as a role of the protector of the people.

Since Merdeka, the royal institution has been held with much reverence. Their majesties have stayed above the politics of governance, fully trusting the legislature through the altruistic efforts of MPs to address and deliberate matters of national import that would steer the nation to greater prosperity.

This has worked well despite some minor malfeasance and misfeasance of the elected representatives.

Even with the horrendous 1Malaysia Development Bhd fiasco that tarnished Malaysia’s image, the royals have remained ensconced and cocooned within the walls of their palaces.

After Perikatan Nasional took over the reins of government without electoral mandate, the palace was dragged into the quagmire of partisan politics.

It was with good intention that the palace exercised the royal prerogative to appoint Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister despite the absence of a parliamentary caucus to ascertain his majority support.

With such a precarious position and the Covid-19 pandemic, the prime minister postponed parliamentary sitting during the six months of his administration and only met for half a day almost at the end of the stipulated mandatory parliamentary sitting.

Parliament sat again in October 2020, to deliberate on the budget, which was passed due to the urgency to address the pandemic. Several motions of no-confidence were sidetracked by the speaker on the pretext that they could only be addressed when all government matters had been dealt with.

Until now, there is no parliamentary confirmation of the prime minister having the majority support of the house.

To allay further challenges to his position, he advised the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah in late 2020, to declare an emergency, ostensibly to deal with the pandemic, but was rejected as the Agong deemed that the situation did not warrant it.

However, in January, Muhyiddin was able to convince His Majesty of the need to declare an emergency in the face of rising Covid-19 cases.

Thus, parliament was suspended, allowing the executive a free rein to undertake fiscal and other measures without the encumbrance of parliamentary scrutiny and accountability.

It has become painfully clear that the emergency has been ineffective in curbing the soaring Covid-19 infections.

Two months after the declaration of the emergency, the Agong expressed the need to reconvene Parliament to address national issues. The administration chose to ignore the Agong’s advice.

Last month, the Agong met leaders of political parties to listen to their views on governance, the democratic process and the nation.

Pursuant to this, His Majesty convened a meeting with his brother rulers, which resulted in a communique that expressed the need for a stable government to urgently address health and economic issues, and that Parliament had to be reconvened as soon as possible.

Instead of acceding in good faith to the advice of the rulers, the government issued statements through the Attorney-General, the Dewan Rakyat speaker, and the Senate president, categorically stating that it is the prerogative of the prime minister, and not the Agong, to convene Parliament.

The government’s haughty stance incurred the displeasure of the Agong, who then summoned the Dewan Rakyat Speaker and the Senate President, together with their deputies, to Istana Negara on June 29, where the Agong reiterated the need to reconvene Parliament immediately.

In response, the government announced that the prime minister, as head of Parliament, would reconvene Parliament before Aug 1, without giving details as to its duration.

It could be a token one-day Parliamentary sitting, perhaps similar to the one in May last year, which did not sit well with the opposition members as it negated the functions of Parliament to oversee the affairs of the state.

Most MPs are hoping for a full-fledged Parliamentary session as suggested by the Agong.

Notwithstanding this overt confrontation between the palace and the government, the royal institution is steadfast this time around, in exercising its royal prerogative in the interests of the rakyat.

Such a royal stance of check and balance augurs well for the future wellbeing of the nation and her people.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.