Agong did right thing, UK paper lacks understanding of constitution, say lawyers

Muhyiddin Yassin receiving his letter of appointment from Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Guardian does not have a clear understanding of the workings of the country’s Federal Constitution and the king’s role in appointing the prime minister, senior lawyer Bastian Pius Vendargon said today.

“Our written constitution sets out the procedure that the monarch has to follow and the subsequent role of the Dewan Rakyat,” he said.

The lawyer said this in response to an editorial in the British daily claiming Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah had orchestrated a “royal coup” to bring down the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Malaysia follows the Westminster system of governance but, unlike the British, “we have a codified supreme law”, said Vendargon.

On Sunday, Pagoh MP Muhyiddin Yassin was made the eighth prime minister after a week of political turmoil following the collapse of the 21-month old PH government.

Article 43 (2)(a) of the constitution states that the King appoints a prime minister who, in his judgment, is likely to command the confidence of the majority.

Vendargon said the Agong could not be expected to look at a precise mathematical formula in appointing a prime minister from among the 222 Dewan Rakyat members.

“The King can use his discretion to form an opinion as to who has the majority support and it does not mean it must be 50% or more,” he said.

Vendargon said support for the newly appointed prime minister could either increase or decrease and the final test was on the floor of the Dewan Rakyat.

Gopal Sri Ram

Last week, retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram had also said the appointment, under Article 43 (2)(a), is at the discretion of the king and it could not be challenged in a court of law.

Sri Ram, who has returned to law practice, said once appointed, the prime minister would then form a Cabinet to run his administration.

He said the constitution did not provide for the Dewan Rakyat to elect from among its members a prime minister but that it merely endorses the king’s appointment.

“Preferably, the prime minister should go to the House as soon as possible and take a confidence vote. If he wins the vote, he remains in office with his Cabinet members.”

It is at the House that the prime minister must get the support of at least 112 MPs to remain in office to administer the nation, together with his Cabinet.

However, if he lost the vote, Sri Ram said the prime minister would go back to the king to report the outcome.

“The prime minister can request the king to dissolve the house for a fresh election to be held.

Hishammuddin Hussein

“If the request is refused, he has to tender his resignation for the king to appoint another MP as prime minister.”

Meanwhile, Sembrong MP and former lawyer Hishammuddin Hussein slammed the “outsiders” for accusing the palace of a “royal coup”.

“The sovereignty, fairness and wisdom of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the head of the country is greatly extolled.

“No foreign parties have the right to interfere.” he tweeted.