War of words rages on.
Following a tweet by Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim yesterday claiming that former Johor menteri besar Osman Sapian was being replaced following orders from Sultan Ibrahim, the exchange of words between the prime minister and the Johor royal family has yet to abate.
Tungku Ismail also said that the appointment of the menteri besar was the prerogative of the Johor sultan.
“The decree to change the menteri besar was made long ago, but there are other people trying to claim credit and mileage, supposedly that it was they who instructed it.
“His Majesty looked into changing the menteri besar for many months. Do not forget that the power to choose the menteri besar is the absolute right of the sultan. Enough of politicking,” Tunku Ismail said.
Yesterday, Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the resignation of Osman Sapian as Johor menteri besar.
The prime minister, however, said it was not up to the Sultan to decide on the appointment of the menteri besar and the power lies in the hands of the ruling party.
“This is a political matter. The sultan does not play a role. It is left to the party to choose who they need,” he told reporters today.
Responding to Dr Mahathir’s statement, lawyer Ahmad Solehin Abd Ghani echoed what Tungku Ismail had said – that the Johor Sultan has the absolute right to appoint the menteri besar.
“Under Undang-undang Tubuh Negeri Johor, Item 3 (1), it is stated that the Sultan has the absolute right in appointing the Mentri Besar where in the issue of appointing, His Majesty does not have to act on advice from any quarters.
“However, through ‘convention’, parties that won would send several names as Mentri Besar candidate to Johor Sultan for His Majesty’s consideration where, in this matter, Pakatan Harapan should send the names,” said Solehin in his Facebook post.
His post was shared by Tunku Ismail via his official Facebook page on Wednesday (April 10).
Ahmad Solehin said the Johor Ruler would review the candidates and if they were appointed, His Majesty must agree to it.
“If the candidates that are sent is not agreed to by His Majesty, then the party must send another list to Johor Sultan until an agreement is reached to appoint the candidate as the Mentri Besar.
“The statement saying Sultan Johor does not have any role and right to appoint the Mentri Besar is incorrect, sidetracks and purposely done (sic) to confuse the community about the duty and role of His Majesty in the government system, especially in Johor,” he said.
When asked to comment on Dr Mahathir’s statement that the party which won the election and not the palace would decide on who would be the next Johor menteri besar, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the constitution is clear on this matter.
“The PM was only referring to the constitution that (the party) which enjoys the majority…but of course, you need to get royal consent...
“I think PM is purely referring to the legal interpretation of the constitution,” he added.
Dr Mahathir and Tunku Ismail have also been crossing swords over the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which Malaysia ratified a month ago but was forced to withdraw last week.
The crown prince was a vocal opponent of the Rome Statute, claiming it would threaten the position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Malays and Islam.
He also claimed that the government had failed to consult the Conference of Rulers when it agreed to accede to the Rome Statute.
Yesterday, Dr Mahathir said Tunku Ismail was free to criticise the government but action would be taken if he makes seditious remarks.
“We consider him as an ‘orang biasa‘ (ordinary person). He can criticise the government as long as he does not break the law,” the prime minister said.
He said that like any other Malaysian citizen, the Johor Crown Prince is not above the law.
This prompted the prince to tweet, “If I have to go down for upholding the constitution, the Malay Rulers, and Islam, by all means. You know where to find me.”
“Like a normal citizen, I have the right to ask questions and give my opinion. I’m all yours. Finish what you start,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sultan Ibrahim said he was currently overseas but was following developments in Malaysia and Johor in particular.
“I want certain quarters to stop making noise and fighting about politics and focus on efforts to take care of the nation instead.
“On matters concerning Johor, do no try to meddle into state affairs as this is a sovereign state that still has a Sultan.
“I will make the best decision for my people when the time comes,” he said.
According to Malaysiakini, Sultan Ibrahim has granted an audience to state opposition chief Hasni Muhammad on Friday, where the latter is expected to suggest that Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin be named as the new menteri besar.
The news portal reported that the Johor Umno chief said this would be one of two recommendations. The other is to petition the ruler to dissolve the state assembly to pave the way for fresh polls.
Dr Mahathir has defended his view that the palace has no role in the appointment of the menteri besar, in remarks which are likely to increase tension between him and the Johor royal family.
He said, “We’re not absolute monarchy, neither is Johor.
“When we formed the Federation of Malaya, we introduced the constitution, where we stated that Malaya will follow the constitutional monarchy system.
“The ruler has no absolute power. If it still says so in the Johor constitution, then it is void. Johor too agrees with the system of governance in the country.”
If the rulers are assumed to have the power to choose the prime minister and menteri besar, Malaysia can no longer be considered a democratic country, Dr Mahathir said
He added that the rakyat had chosen a party, which in turn had the right to appoint the menteri besar.
“[…] But (when) this right is denied, then we are no longer a democracy,” the prime minister said.
“We have stated that the Federated States practices a system of constitutional monarchy, not absolute monarchy,” said Dr Mahathir.
“If that (the right for the party to choose the MB) is abolished, then we can do away with general elections,” he added.
Related report: Apr 9, TMJ Confirms MB to Be Swapped, but on Sultan’s Decree