A constitutional crisis averted

This article first appeared in Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on June 11, 2018 - June 17, 2018.
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All's well that ends well. So the stand-off over the sacking of Tan Sri Apandi Ali from the post of attorney-general and the appointment of Tommy Thomas as his successor have ended well and in a splendid fashion. It is another watershed achievement by the new government as we continue our march towards a more mature, flourishing and vibrant democratic political process and system.

The problem should not have started in the first place, if all stakeholders in the power equation were mindful about carrying their duties and responsibilities in accordance with the provisions of our constitution. The constitution is very clear and explicit that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall appoint the attorney-general on the advice of the prime minister. And there are no specific provisions that require the candidate to be a Malay Muslim.

Perhaps the only implicit requirement is that the candidate nominated by the prime minister has to be immensely qualified for the job in terms of expertise and working knowledge as well as being a person of impeccable integrity and credibility. One who inspires faith and confidence.

In the case of Thomas, there is overwhelming evidence that many Malaysians endorsed and supported his nomination. There were of course voices of discord from some quarters, including political party PAS and non-governmental organisations like the Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organisation and so on. But they were voices in the wilderness, representing the minority. Full of sound and fury but signifying nothing!

The resolution to the problem has come about through plenty of hard work behind the scenes. But most of all, it is the people who have made it possible. They expressed their views and opinions in a most unequivocal manner and pressed for a resolution premised on the constitutional provisions. They stood their ground. And they made it crystal clear that if push came to shove, they would rally behind Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad all the way. It was a show of awesome people power.

Still, we come across cynics and mischief-makers in cyber space who asked with disdain, is Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim — who mediated with the king and Malay rulers — now the hero?

People with a balanced sense of reason and perspective will not see it that way. Mahathir set the direction and Anwar assisted and collaborated at his behest. All this was done with the full knowledge and concurrence of the prime minister.

And thank God for that. A crisis has been averted and the government can now attend to the needful in governance, including a speedy resolution to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd mega financial scandal.

There are obvious lessons to be learnt here, to avoid a recurrence of a similar problem in the future.

1. That any crisis the nation faces can be resolved if the government and rakyat are united and resolute in their stand, with other stakeholders forced to listen to the voice of reason and take full cognisance of the collective will and wishes of the people.

2. That the sanctity of the Federal Constitution is preserved with its intents and purposes fully observed. A message has been driven home to all that no matter how high and mighty one is in the pecking order, higher and mightier still are the people, their hopes, expectations and aspirations.

3. That at the end of the day, it is the people's wishes that must prevail, and rightly so.

4. That the rakyat will have to use their sense of reason and perspective to recognise and reject the evil spin doctors, mischief-makers and people with sinister agendas out to derail the new government and create a wedge between the partners of Pakatan Harapan, and in particular to sow seeds of dissension between Mahathir and Anwar.

5. Last but not least, is to appreciate and accept that the combination of Mahathir and Anwar has once again proved successful and viable. The duo is the right way forward.

The happy conclusion to this chapter should not be taken for granted. It may not have ended that way had Mahathir been less firm and resolute in his stand. And had Anwar not been the effective mediator behind the scenes to assist the prime minister to bring to fruition the collective will of the government and people.

Now, let’s get down to the real business — in particular the decisive handling and speedy conclusion of the 1MDB saga and other such other mega scandals that have bled the nation dry.

Wan Haron Wan Hassan is a senior practising lawyer and is active in civil society movements. He is also a former treasurer of the Umno Kota Baru division (2004-2008).

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