WITH the latest unambiguous ultimatum from Umno to convene Parliament or else, the pressure from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Conference of Rulers for the same, and the general dissatisfaction with the government, the prime minister has little choice but to oblige.
If Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin takes lightly the threat by the Umno president to convene Parliament within 14 days, he may well face a clear, demonstrable loss of parliamentary majority if a large section of Umno MPs withdraw support for him.
Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi did not mince his words when he gave Perikatan Nasional 14 days to reconvene Parliament, or his party will call a supreme council meeting to discuss its next step.
In a statement yesterday, he said Umno fully supports the Agong and Conference of Rulers’ decrees on a parliamentary sitting.
“The government’s failure to heed the decree is considered a form of rebellion and disrespect to the institution of the Malay rulers.
“Umno’s stand is that Parliament is very important and needs to be reconvened immediately to allow the people’s demands and hopes to be brought up, to highlight their struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also to ensure accountability on the part of the government.
“There is no need for terms such as ‘as soon as possible’ and ‘soon’ in the two statements that expressed a common stand (by the Agong and Conference of Rulers) on a parliamentary sitting.”
The king, too, has been unequivocal about his suggestion that Parliament start now.
As The Vibes reported, Istana Negara extracted a section of the statement in its Facebook post that reads: “After taking into account the views of the leaders of political parties, the Special Independent Committee on the Emergency 2021, and briefings from experts and agencies, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is of the view that Parliament must convene as soon as possible. This is to allow the emergency ordinances and the National Recovery Plan to be debated by MPs.”
“That is the signal that His Majesty wants Parliament to be opened now,” a source close to the palace told The Vibes.
“He is sending the message across that this (reconvening of Parliament) is what he wants.
“Since His Majesty indicated that Parliament should reconvene to debate the emergency ordinance, this means he wants the Dewan Rakyat to reconvene immediately, not after August 1.”
Muhyiddin had indicated that Parliament will be reconvened in September or October. The current emergency ends in August.
Those are rather definite statements that indicate that Muhyiddin is well and truly squeezed. The third is that indications show the general public is not convinced that the emergency is necessary to control Covid-19 and that Parliament should still be suspended.
If Parliament is convened, then it would mean that the emergency is lifted, too. Everyone wants the emergency to be lifted except the ruling government for fear that it will lose power in a new alignment of MPs.
That can never be an argument for not convening Parliament. Zahid’s ultimatum forces the issue of Muhyiddin not having the support of a majority of MPs out of the arena of Parliament and into the open.
If Umno deserts PN, the PN government must collapse because PN’s majority is hanging by a slender thread. There is no need for Parliament to convene to establish that. It is a threat that Muhyiddin cannot afford to ignore and something he has no immediate answer to.
If Muhyiddin is relying on the constitutional argument that the Agong must act on the prime minister’s advice, he must realise or has been advised that, in deciding who commands a majority in Parliament, the king has discretion.
Article 43 (4) of the federal constitution says: “If the prime minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then, unless at his request the Yang di-Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the prime minister shall tender the resignation of the cabinet.”
Also, there is legal opinion that the king can end a state of emergency by virtue of what is stated in Section 14 (1) (b) of the Emergency Ordinance 2021: “Parliament shall be summoned, prorogued and dissolved on a date as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong thinks appropriate.”
As lawyer G.K. Ganeson says in the video, “Section 14 handed over 100% of the power to summon (Parliament) to the king.”
That means if Muhyiddin declines to summon Parliament and advises the king to end the emergency, the king can do that himself. The king probably will, if His Majesty thinks that this is what the rakyat at large will support. Indications are that they will.
Is Muhyiddin then effectively checkmated? Will he advise the king to reconvene Parliament, a more palatable alternative to having the king summon it? Caught between the powers of the king and Zahid’s threat – and increasing disillusionment among the rakyat – he does not seem to have a choice.
That would mean substantial politicking – and uncertainty – in the days ahead to form new political alignments. Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan revealed that there is already a movement to collect statutory declarations from lawmakers in a bid to form a new government.
Fasten your seatbelts for a roller-coaster ride. – The Vibes, June 22, 2021
P. Gunasegaram has had more than his fair share of roller-coaster rides these last few years. He is executive director of advocacy and research organisation Sekhar Institute and editorial consultant of The Vibes