CSRA between government and opposition suffers a blow

The possibility of reaching a  confidence-supply-reform agreement between the government and the opposition suffered a grievous blow and  is now  “up in the air” as a result of the omission of the vote of confidence motion in the parliamentary agenda next week.

If the Yang di Pertuan Agong had changed his mind and consented not to have a confidence motion in Parliament  as claimed by the new Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of law and Parliament, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, then why was it not stated right from the very beginning instead of the most bizarre statement by the Attorney-General Idris Harun last Saturday arguing the most ridiculous  point that a vote of confidence would undermine the Yang di Pertuan Agong’s powers to appoint a Prime Minster in accordance with the Malaysian Constitution?

The appointment of a Prime Minister by the Yang di Pertuan Agong and a motion of confidence in Parliament are two separate and distinct issues although they are inter-related.

It is no wonder that no jurist or lawyer has come out in support of Idris’ contention while many lawyers and NGOs have dissented from the Attorney-General.

PAS Senator Idris Ahmad believes PM Ismail Sabri should not face a vote of confidence in Parliament

Although PAS has taken a stand that there is no need for a vote of confidence in Parliament, this  is PAS’  political stand rather than a constitutional position.

The correct constitutional  position is summed up by the former Court of Appeal Judge, Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, who said that the Yang di Pertuan Agong could rely on the Statutory Declarations of the MPs and interview with  them to exercise his  Constitutional powers under Article 40(2)(a) to appoint the Prime Minister while Article 43(3) which says that the Prime Minister must tender his resignation if he does not have majority support is a matter  for Parliament to determine.

There is only one reason for Ismail Sabri not wanting to have a motion of confidence in Parliament next Tuesday to establish his legitimacy as originally decreed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong on August 17 in his meeting with political party leaders and reiterated in an Istana Negara statement on August 18  – that Ismail Sabri feared he would not be able  to secure the support  of 114 Members of Parliament in the vote of confidence in Parliament although they  had expressed support of Ismail Sabri as Prime Minister in their statutory declarations and confirmed their support of Ismail as the new Prime Minister  in their subsequent interview  with the Yang di Pertuan Agong on 20th August, 2021.

Ismail can avoid a vote of confidence motion but can he avoid votes in Parliament amounting to votes on his legitimacy as Prime Minister – whether on  23rd Sept on the motion of thanks for the Royal Address, on 7th October on the 12th Malaysia Plan, the 2022 Budget or the various Bills?

Can we ensure an end to the political maelstrom and uncertainty in Parliament  and a new-found unity of purpose to win the losing war against the  Covid-19 pandemic to reset the country with parliamentary and institutional reforms for economic and national recovery for the next 12-18 months until the 15th General Election?

Junaidi said that the confidence-supply-reform agreement first offered by the former Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, is still on the table.

There is no doubt that the possibility of an unprecedented  political breakthrough in reaching a confidence-supply-reform accord between the government and opposition so that all Malaysians can single-mindedly focus on winning  the losing war against the Covid-19 pandemic had suffered a grievous blow and it is to be seen whether such an agreement could be salvaged before Parliament reconvenes next Monday.

 Lim Kit Siang

MP for Iskandar Puteri

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