May 28, 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: WHILE the political crisis in Perlis could be solved within the week, the state Constitution gives a lot of time for the mentri besar to dust off any cobwebs that may be affecting his position and his leadership.
He has three months from May 24 — the day he was sworn-in — to do this.
The federal Constitution’s Eighth Schedule, Article 20 (6), gives second-term MB Datuk Seri Azlan Man three months to secure the much-needed confidence of the majority of assemblymen (Adun).
If Azlan fails to do so, the law dictates that he must resign as MB or the Raja of Perlis Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail can agree for the state legislative assembly be dissolved.
The crisis erupted because the remaining nine Umno Aduns objected to Azlan’s appointment to the no point of being absent from the swearing-in ceremony.
But Perlis is no stranger to a crisis of this nature. An almost similar imbroglio happened ten years ago and interestingly, former MB Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim has been a key figure in both. It is an open secret in Perlis that Shahidan and the Ruler do not get along.
The then and now
In 2008, the Ruler was not in favour of retaining Shahidan as MB and his chance to oust Shahidan came after the Aduns said they were not in favour of him. The Ruler invoked Article 39 (2) of the state Constitution on confidence of the majority to appoint Datuk Seri Md. Isa Sabu.
Apparently, this was the same contention raised by Shahidan and the nine assemblymen over Azlan’s appointment recently, adding that they initially preferred Shahidan’s brother, Ismail, who is no longer keen to be MB and wants the Ruler to consider any of the remaining 8.
Although their argument is correct, lawyers pointed to another part of the Constitution which enables the Ruler to circumvent Article 39 (2).
Article 39 (4) essentially allows the Raja to bypass whatever restrictions imposed by the Constitution, wrote a lawyer in the comment section of a Facebook discussion.
Article 39 (4) says: “In appointing the menteri besar the Ruler 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 the Article.”
While every other state constitution has a similar clause to 39 (4), it however says that a Ruler can essentially sidestep his state Constitution only if no Malay/Muslim Adun enjoys the confidence of the majority.
It is against such a backdrop that constitutional law expert Professor Shamrahayu Abdul Aziz of the International Islamic University believes that the Raja of Perlis cannot deny the need for an MB candidate to command the confidence of the majority.
“The constitution does not specify any method the Ruler needs to use in order to gauge whether or not a candidate commands the confidence of the majority. The no-show by the nine Aduns may not deny the validity of Azlan’s appointment,” she said.
Although he has another 86 days, it’s best for Azlan to get cracking now to bring calm to the state.
However, the fact that he only needs to convince a minimum of four of the nine to form the state executive council may be a big help, more so if he can entice them with the extra RM8,000 monthly allowance for an exco.
That’s big money in a tiny, low-cost state like Perlis.