Since our history past, there have always been ‘royalists’ and ‘republicans’ in our midst. Nevertheless, when our federal constitution was framed and agreed upon, we created and allowed for the institution of the sultans. Nine states had sultans and Malacca and Penang were Straits Settlements; without sultans but with local, people-appointed governors.
Our royal institution was legally defined as ‘the Conference of Rulers.’ My question is, why call it a ‘conference’, and why call it ‘rulers’ and not it sultans? My answers are simple, but maybe the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA), our accreditation of knowledge agency may not accept them. After all, they disallowed me to teach ‘the constitution’ for the Masters Programme at UCSI University when we offered the Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) at the university.
Now, to explicate my answers for the record. It is a conference because there a 10 different categories of ‘rulers;’ for the 11 states of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, and, which is not called ‘Melayusia’ either.
The peninsula, as different and separate from the other two founding partners of Malaysia, is only one member of this ‘rulership’. So, when the Conference of Rulers meets, it includes not just all hereditary leaders and people-appointed rulers of the different ‘states of the federation’ but also their chief ministers or ‘menteris besar.’
The Conference of Rulers therefore consists of at least 26 members who provide leadership for the current 13 ‘states of the federation’. These 13 states are made up of three legitimate but different categories of ‘states’ that make up Malaysia; of Sabah, Sarawak and another federation of states called peninsular Malaysia.
The other ‘rulers’ are chief ministers as the peoples’ representatives of the respective elected governments who command a majority in their respective assemblies.
There two kinds of ‘rulerships’ in each of the states of the federation: one of sultans, and the other of appointed governors. The history of each of the hereditary Malay rulers is unique and different for each state’s history, and ‘kingdom creation’.
Their roles, rules of conduct and authority in our democracy are however pre-defined within the federal constitution based on the history of the Westminster form of parliamentary democracy. Therefore, ours is and always will be a constitutional monarchy, and never a feudal one.
Case study of Selangor leadership crisis
When we teach public policy, one of the basic and core concerns we teach is called ‘problem-solving’, or how do we define any public policy problem.
So, what is the public policy problem with Selangor today? It is simply founded on what is the nature and form of our constitutional democracy and constitutional monarchy.
Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, the former leader of the Pakatan government, a coalition of three parties but one which is not registered as one body, who held a majority in Selangor has now lost the confidence of the majority; with an explicit show of discontent by 30 coalition members of their support for a new and different candidate.
This is never a new problem in every constitutional democracy of the Westminster democracy heritage. This is how the transfer of leadership change is registered, without the need for a new election of representatives, as the core problem of only one of lack of confidence in leadership, and not a change of government.
Role of the monarch
What is the role of the constitutional monarch in this instance? Not complex or complicated. Simply use wisdom to identify and define who has leadership trust of majority, regardless of reasons or, frankly, even of capability, and simply pick the one who commands a majority in the assembly.
The validity of this choice would become evident on the day the assembly meets, if the person does not have a majority, as he or she will be defeated in the first vote on any issue of substance.
Is such wisdom then unique to the monarchs, or found only in blue blood-types? I am sorry to say; it is not, it is a God-given skill of the gap between information and knowledge about all the issues and concerns of life, involved in public policy-making.
Therefore, can the monarch then choose to toss a coin and then define who the new leader is? No, he cannot, as long as there is a clear candidate with a majority or supporters. If for any reason he is not confident, he can ask the House to meet and make that determination. But, under our model of Westminster democracy, as constitutional monarch, he has no absolute privilege to do so. The only time this happens, is if there is a vote in the House, and there is a hung Parliament.
Even so, the way forward is for the monarch to invite all leaders of all parties and try to broker and break in the impasse. He can only assume the role of an independent and neutral monarch but never as a partisan member of any political party; even if his business interests are protected and preserved by the government of the day.
What is Selangor’s way forward?
I write as a citizen in Petaling Jaya who paid taxes and have owned property here, and having lived in and around Selangor for about 50 years. I have no desire to be a menteri besar so I can accept that ‘some so-called istiadat’ may not allow me to be MB because I was born in Kedah; but I cannot accept such logic as even that is unconstitutional as the constitution only recognises citizens. State rules take secondary consideration.
I appeal to His Highness the Sultan not to ‘play politics or allow himself to be manipulated by local partisan politics, but to please make the decision which is best for the people of Selangor. Khalid has to go, because he has been sacked by his own party. We need another candidate from Pakatan, but who originates from PKR, as replacement for Khalid, but the same person must command the majority in the assembly.
Therefore, whoever is chosen or selected in the process of this high-powered high-level politics, please safeguard the interests of all residents and citizens of Selangor and we want the state government to return to good governance of the state so that we can grow our economy and help the simple and ordinary people in Selangor to get on with our lives.
Local governance in Selangor needs much work to be done for improvement of Local Authorities. If Pakatan cannot show distinct improvement at this third level of national governance, I for one, will work hard to have this government changed at the next general election. May God bless Selangor.