Sunday, March 6, 2016

Calling for Najib’s ouster before polls perfectly legit, say lawyers

Putrajaya's assertion that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak can only be replaced through the ballot box is flawed, lawyers say, pointing out that demanding for his resignation is perfectly legal in a democracy. They said the Barisan Nasional (BN) should know that such a statement was far from the truth, as evident in the fact that Najib became prime minister by succession, in how the ruling coalition took over the Perak government in 2009 and in the recent replacement of the Kedah menteri besar. An internal push, as in the case leading to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's resignation in 2009, can also be used to replace a prime minister. Constitutional lawyer Syahredzan Johan said Malaysia did not practise a presidential system similar to the United States, which meant that the people did not elect directly the PM. He said instead, the winning party in a general election would submit a name to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to be appointed as the nation's top leader.  "The name, in most instances, would be the person who commands the confidence of the majority of the members of parliament, fulfilling the constitutional requirement," he told The Malaysian Insider. Putrajaya, in response to the Citizens' Declaration by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, opposition leaders and civil society leaders on Friday which included a call for Najib's removal, said the prime minister was given the mandate to lead the country at the 13th general election in 2013. The government said "the only mechanism that is lawful, democratic and fulfils the people's will" for a change of prime minister was the general election. Najib, however, became prime minister in 2009, succeeding Abdullah, who faced pressure from within Umno to quit after leading BN to dismal results in the 2008 general election. Syahredzan said the resignation of the sitting PM could be brought about by "a motion of no-confidence or internal pressure". "So demanding the resignation of a prime minister is not only legal, but is well within the spirit of the parliamentary democracy practised in Malaysia." Former president of the Malaysian Bar Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan agreed with Syahredzan that the removal of the prime minister was possible through a vote of no-confidence in Parliament. Should the motion be passed, the prime minister must either resign or request for the dissolution of Parliament from the Agong, and this is provided for in the Federal Constitution. The human rights activist also described Putrajaya's statement that Najib could only be removed through the ballot box as "unusual" coming "from those who engineered the Perak and Kedah takeovers". "In fact with Perak, they set a legal precedent. It also ignores the fact that we do not vote for the PM.  "By convention, where BN wins the majority, Umno decides (the prime minister)," she said. Ambiga also said to remove the prime minister through a motion of no-confidence in Parliament, there had to be an independent speaker. "In the current situation, the removal of the PM is possible by motion of no-confidence in Parliament. But you need an independent speaker for that. "The other would be the Perak style (takeover) but the numbers have to be there," she said on other ways the prime minister could be removed. In the Perak 2009 saga, three Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen defected to become BN-friendly independents, causing the state government to collapse. In Kedah, Mukhriz, after facing an internal party revolt in the state, resigned as menteri besar on February 3 after the rulers' council determined support for him among assemblymen. When asked why there has not been a successful attempt of a no-confidence motion against Najib, Syahredzan said it failed in the past as the house was filled with the business of the government, with non-governmental matters placed low on the list of priorities. "What we have seen before is when the opposition leader submitted a motion of no-confidence, it was buried under so many other business of the house that it was never even debated. "We do not have what they have in other jurisdictions where certain days are reserved as 'opposition days' for house business which are not government business," he added. Syahredzan said, however, even if such a motion was allowed to be tabled, the party whip system meant that there was no free vote for lawmakers. "Barisan MPs are unlikely to vote in favour of the no-confidence motion and it will likely fail." Constitutional law expert Dr Abdul Aziz Bari said a new prime minister chosen based on the majority support of legislators would still have to request the Agong for the dissolution of Parliament so that fresh elections could be held. "(It is) the moral duty… the prime minister post-Najib would return it back to the people who will then have the opportunity to vote out or in a government with a clear manifesto." – March 7, 2016.]]>

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