September 23, 2019
by Abdul Rahmat Omar
MALAYSIANS are not accustomed to seeing a Yang di-Pertuan Agong and a Raja Permaisuri Agong that they can relate to.
Remove the pomp and regalia, you see a CEO who holds work discussions at a mamak joint over teh tarik, and a mother who stops at stalls to buy kuih, just like ordinary parents would do on a daily basis.
To say that Malaysians have gone all gaga over this Royal couple is an understatement. The ability to interact, especially with the Queen, on social media is totally unprecedented.
In some ways, being able to tweet to your Queen like you would speak to your mother is good, but some tend to forget that there are lines drawn in such engagement. They mean well, but tend to forget mannerism.
Of course, the royal institution also has its band of haters – people who think that the royal institution does not have a place in modern democracy.
They call the royal families the untouchables, the unelected, the ones whom we pay for their lifestyle. All these remarks have been made thinking that the Malaysian democracy is a true democracy in every sense, where the Malay Rulers are nothing but overpaid rubber stamps.
They are anything but rubber stamps.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the Supreme Head and executive authority of the Federation.
In other words, he is the fount of authority in Malaysia. As the Ruler of a State, he also represents the other eight Malay Rulers who have elected him to the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Prior to 1 February 1948, save for the rulers of Terengganu and Johor which governed in council with the Sultan as head, the rulers were all absolute monarchs.
The British were here in agreement with the respective state Ruler to assist the latter in making the administration of their respective state more efficient.
The Rulers delegated their administrative authority, except in the affairs of the religion of Islam and Malay customs, to the British Residents who were in the Rulers’ payroll.
These residents were answerable not to the Queen of England, but to the sovereign ruler of whichever Malay state they were transferred to.
Come February 1 1948, these Malay states were all federated – with central control, but with some internal autonomy.
The Malay states still retained their sovereignty.
A popular belief is that we were colonised and were therefore not sovereign states, but the court case brought by one Jenny Mighell against the Sultan of Johor in 1894 brought forth an 1885 Treaty with the Crown of England and a letter each from the Colonial Office and Queen Victoria herself to confirm Johor’s status as a sovereign nation.
When the Sultan of Johor sent Dato’ Mohd Seth bin Mohd Said as his representative to the Merdeka discussions in London, the latter was given an instruction to disagree with Malaya being given independence.
Detractors of the royal institution regarded this as the Johor family wanting to remain as a colony of England instead of being independent as a single nation under the Federation of Malaya.
The truth is, Johor was independent at the time as other states were, had its own civil service, courts and postal service. Used to efficient governance headed by British advisers, the Sultan of Johor did not want a Malaya governed by Malayans who, in the view of the Sultan, do not possess any idea of how a nation should be governed.
The 1948 Federation of Malaya had a Federation of Malaya Legislative Council with the High Commissioner as its Chief of Executive; three ex-officio members namely the Chief Secretary, the Finance Secretary and the Attorney-General; 11 State and Settlement members consisting of the President of the Council of each of the Malay states and an elected member of the council from Melaka and Pulau Pinang; and 45 official (including the Chief Ministers) and unofficial members.
This council was made via the Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948 by Sir Edward Gent on behalf of the Malay Rulers, and only for the Malay Rulers and their Successors.
This again, is proof that the Malay Rulers were sovereign and not subjects of any colonial power.
Fast forward to 1957, the final agreement was reached for the Malay Rulers to transfer the delegation of some of their executive powers from the British administrators to the representatives chosen by the people in the 1955 elections.
The Malay Rulers had preferred a hybrid government that would have consisted of elected representatives as well as representatives appointed by them made up of professionals who could help run the country in the case where elected representatives do not meet the expected mark.
In hindsight, that would have saved us all a lot of trouble now.
The office of a Yang di-Pertuan Agong, representing the other eight Malay Rulers, was created by the Federal Constitution.
In this constitution it also states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has the right to choose from the Lower House, an elected representative whom to the opinion of His Majesty, holds the confidence in the House, to become the Prime Minister.
This Prime Minister shall then advise His Majesty on whom to pick as members of His Majesty’s Cabinet.
Likewise, the Sultan or Raja of the respective states has the right to choose an elected representative from the Dewan whom to the opinion of His Majesty, holds the confidence of the Dewan, to become the Menteri Besar. This Menteri Besar shall then advise His Majesty on whom to pick as His Majesty’s Executive Councillors.
If the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or the Sultan or Raja, feel that none hold the confidence of the House or Dewan, Their Majesties can not appoint anyone until a candidate that enjoys the confidence of the elected representatives is found; but this has to be done within 120 days after the dissolution of the Parliament and states assembly.
It is not for anyone to force Their Majesties to choose.
Having said that, there was no business whatsoever for Umno members to hold a demonstration in front of the Terengganu palace, for Pakatan supporters to roll on the roads leading to the Perak palace, or for the Prime Minister to say that the Sultan of Johor has no say in choosing a Menteri Besar.
The Prime Minister is the CEO of the country, answering to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong who is the Executive Chairman.
And what do the Malay Rulers receive for them to agree to being in this Federation and to allow the people to choose amongst them representatives who will be administering the Malay Rulers’ government? The emoluments stated in the Istana Negara (Royal Allowances) Act, 1982 and the various states’ enactment for royal provisions.
The constitution of the Malay states was made by the Malay Rulers and with the State Legislative Council. The Federal Constitution was made by the Federal Legislative Council. The Federal Constitution made the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Acts, us Malaysians.
Take the Federal Constitution away and dissolve Malaysia, you will not have a Yang di-Pertuan Agong, no Prime Minister, nothing. However, the Malay states will still exist with the Sultans as the supreme executive authority of those states.
And they are above the respective states constitution because they made the state constitution.
That is why they are the unelected, the untouchables as some say.
And no, you do not feed them.
You are merely paying them in exchange for your right to vote in the people in your judgment would be the better ones to administer the government by the people, for Their Majesties.