Senior lawyers: Cabinet cannot treat King as ‘mere rubber stamp’

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The Yang di-Pertuan Agong cannot be treated as a mere rubber stamp by the Cabinet in its constitutional matters, especially on the revocation of the six emergency ordinances (EOs), two senior lawyers said.

They said although the King had to act on the advice of the prime minister or the Cabinet, he had constitutional duties to perform.

Bastian Pius Vendargon said the King had every right to offer caution and demand to see Cabinet documents and all information available to the government to satisfy himself to grant consent upon advice.

“Anyone who practises parliamentary democracy and understands the spirit of the Federal Constitution will know that the King is not a mere rubber stamp,” he said.

Vendargon was responding to a Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) statement yesterday evening that the revocation of the EOs was done in accordance with the law.

The PMO cited Article 40(1A) of the constitution to say that the King must act on the advice of the prime minister or the Cabinet.

Vendargon said it followed that it would be a misinterpretation of the workings of the constitution to state that the executive could act even before royal consent has been granted.

“There are steps to be taken for the proper revocation of the EOs,” he said, adding that the King must give his consent and “it must not be assumed”.

He said events since Monday seemed to suggest that the Cabinet had decided to revoke the Eos, and the King was obliged to accept the advice of the prime minister.

The Cabinet, he added, should not totally disable the checks and balances in the constitution and that included the role of the King, Parliament and the judiciary.

Lawyer Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin, who concurred with Vendargon’s views, maintained his stand that the King is not required to act on the advice of the Cabinet during a state of emergency.

“The monarch had a constitutional duty to perform, and his consent cannot be presumed in an emergency,” he said.

Firoz Hussen said since it was the King who promulgated the emergency proclamation and the EOs, only he could revoke them.

“The Cabinet cannot substitute him or else it is a failure to abide by the constitution on revocation,” he said.

He said the 30-day rule in relation to parliamentary bills coming into force without royal assent did not apply to emergency proclamation and the EOs.

On Monday, law minister Takiyuddin Hassan told the Dewan Rakyat that the six EOs had been revoked as of July 21 and that the government had decided to cancel them under Article 153 of the constitution.

The opposition claimed this “secret revocation” was to prevent the need to debate and vote on it as that would prove Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin did not have majority support in the Dewan Rakyat.

Yesterday, the Palace issued a statement saying Putrajaya did not get the King’s consent to revoke the emergency ordinances and that Takiyuddin’s statement in Parliament was “inaccurate and had misled the members of the Dewan Rakyat”.

Comptroller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said in the statement that Articles 150(2B) and 150(3) of the Federal Constitution clearly gave the authority for the enactment and revocation of ordinances to the King.

He said the King had earlier told Takiyuddin and Attorney-General Idrus Harun during a virtual audience that the revocation of ordinances should be tabled and debated in Parliament. – FMT