KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 – Judges and not the Attorney-General decide on what is law in Malaysia, and the last two Attorney-Generals have shown that one AG can disagree with another AG, said DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang.
He was rebutting a statement by Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun yesterday that the Cabinet is the one that determines when both houses of Parliament would meet, as the King or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s constitutional power to summon for Parliament to meet will be at the Cabinet’s advice.
Amid the ongoing hassle and debate on the reconvening of the Malaysian Parliament, following the King’s advice last week to reconvene the Parliament as soon as possible, Idrus Harun sought to explain the legal position under the Federal Constitution regarding the Agong’s constitutional functions.
He had said that in line with the Agong’s power to summon Parliament to meet, which is carried out according to the Cabinet’s advice, the meeting dates for the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara are to be also determined by the Cabinet.
In a statement here today, Kit Siang said it must noted that under the Malaysian Constitution, the Attorney-General is the principal legal adviser of the government and not a judge who lays down the law of the land and this applied also to an AG who was a former Federal Court judge.
“As illustrated by the two previous Attorney-Generals under different administrations, one Attorney-General can disagree with another Attorney-General and there is nothing sacrosanct or final about the views of the Attorney-General on what is the law in the land.
“As one leading lawyer, who has disputed the Attorney-General’s interpretation of the Constitution yesterday, pointed out, there is Article 130 in the Constitution where the government can refer to the Federal Court for its opinion any question as to the effect of any provision of the Constitution which the Attorney-General has not availed the government.
“Secondly, it is pertinent that the Attorney-General Idris Harun was referring to the convening of Parliament and not to the extension of the emergency beyond August 1, 2021.
“There is no serious suggestion that the Yang di Pertuan Agong unilaterally convene Parliament although there is serious suggestion that the Yang di Pertuan Agong, under the present circumstances, need not act on advice of the Cabinet or a designated Minister if he is asked to extend emergency beyond August 1, 2021 because of nagging questions about legitimacy and whether the Prime Minister commands the confidence of the majority of elected Members of Parliament.”
Kit Siang said the Prime Minister had given an implicit undertaking not to invoke Article 40 of the Constitution when enacting Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 on January 11, 2021 and establishing an independent special committee “to advise the Yang di Pertuan Agong on the continuing existence of the grave emergency threatening the security, economic life and public order of the Federation arising from the epidemic of an infection disease, namely Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)”.
As a result, the Yang di Pertuan Agong need not have to act on the advice of the Cabinet or a designated Minister under Article 40(1).
“Did the Attorney-General Idris Harun advise the Prime Minister to enact such a provision in the Essential (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 on the
Special Independent Emergency Committee and what is the constitutional effect of such a provision?
“To avoid a full-blown constitutional crisis, I had suggested that the Prime Minister should convene Parliament before August 1, 2021.
“With regard to the 28-day notice normally required for the convening of Parliament, it has been pointed out that this can be dispensed with under Standing Orders 9(2)(a) and 11(2).”
Malaysia needs a “Win the War Against Covid-19 Pandemic” (WACOP) coalition government to save the country from the devastation in lives, economic losses and societal damages of the pandemic.
Citing a medical expert’s warning yesterday of “an impending, massive fifth wave” in Malaysia which “may be so big as to make the current one look pale in contrast”, Kit Siang said there was a need to “subordinate all our political differences to this existential threat posed by Covid-19 pandemic. This is why I proposed on 17th June for a one or two-year political moratorium to win the war against the Covid-19 pandemic.”
He said that both the two conclusions of the Conference of Rulers special meeting on June 16 – that Parliament and the State Assemblies meet “as soon as possible” and no need for any extension of the emergency beyond August 1 – were in line with the wishes of people of Malaysia to ensure an administration that can win the war against the Covid-19 pandemic.