Frankly Speaking: Get the law right in appointing MB

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 15, 2019 - April 21, 2019.
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The lively debate on who has the right to appoint the next Johor menteri besar is, if anything, a healthy sign that the rule of democracy prevails in Malaysia.

It presents a great opportunity to clarify the situation, given the misunderstanding apparent among some quarters in relation to Malaysia’s system of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

Some argue that the Johor sultan has the absolute right to choose and appoint the next menteri besar.

On the other hand, others point out that he only has absolute discretion in the event of a hung state assembly or based on other stipulations provided under the Johor state constitution.

It is important to return to the wording of the law to ascertain the truth. Article 4(2) of the Johor state constitution states that the menteri besar must be a state assemblyman who commands majority support in the assembly.

The majority party will submit the name of its candidate for the sultan’s consent so that the appointment process can commence.

But if there is no such candidate, the sultan is empowered to choose a menteri besar from among the elected assemblymen at his discretion.

As constitutional experts have pointed out, a scenario whereby a ruler has absolute discretion to choose whoever he wants could spark a constitutional crisis.

This could happen in the event that the chosen candidate does not command majority support and could consequently face a vote of no-confidence in the state assembly.

It is encouraging that such matters are being openly discussed. Such debates, conducted in a healthy and constructive manner, will only serve to educate the public further.

However, it is important to ensure that the laws are correctly interpreted and explained to avoid confusing the rakyat.

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