The marketing of a Parliament


WHATEVER justification given by de-facto Law Minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan for the refusal to allow Parliament to convene, it sounds hollow and ambivalent.

Hollow because it is uttered at the back of the government’s decision to allow schools, cinemas, night markets — all activities that gather people by the hundreds.

Ambivalent because prior to this, every single attempt to question the prime minister’s (PM) advice for the declaration of the emergency, the name of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was invoked to defend the move.

And when the King decreed that the Parliament can be convened while the emergency is still in force, a sitting is brushed aside as unnecessary and unwise to do on grounds that half of the MPs are in the Covid-19 high-risk age group.

In fact, quite a number of government leaders have conveniently turned royalists after the proclamation of emergency, citing treason for anyone who disagreed with the PM for seeking such a declaration.

Conveniently ignored was that these criticisms over the emergency were directed at PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin over his questionable majority, if it exists at all, which would render it illegal for him to offer advice to the King especially in pushing for the declaration of the emergency.

None of the criticisms was targeted at the King at all.

But these “new” royalists, which were of chequered questionable past, apart from uncouth behaviour that included an attempt to promote a preferred choice of Ruler against a sitting one, had now conveniently linked any criticisms or questions raised on the legitimacy of the government, to treasonous acts of undermining the King’s decree.

Now that the King has contended that Parliament could convene, Takiyuddin, obviously speaking on behalf of the Muhyiddin-led Cabinet, at least until and unless the PM contradicts him publicly, had chosen to skirt the King’s decree.

To put things into context, the King when decreeing that Parliament could be convened during the emergency had said it could be called on a date he deemed appropriate and on the advice of the PM.

The decree came after numerous quarters had questioned, firstly on Muhyiddin’s legitimacy to advise the King when he was deemed without legitimacy to continue as the PM.

Secondly, criticism that, given his questionable legitimacy, the move to request the King to proclaim the emergency was self-serving and had nothing to do with combating Covid-19 which the frontliners and all related agencies were doing fine with existing laws and regulations in the face of a compliant, if not a near exemplary citizenry.

Thirdly, apart from accusations that his questionable legitimacy and that the emergency declaration was to protect his political longevity, the suspension of Parliament was without reason or rhyme especially if juxtaposed with other nations that had declared a state of emergency in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among the first acts pursued by these nations, immediately after or just before the declaration is made, is to convene a parliamentary sitting.

Then there is another aspect of the King’s decree on the Parliamentary sitting that enjoyed popular support was that during the emergency, the King need not seek the advice of the PM and as such, it was not the position of the PM nor any member of his Cabinet to oppose any suggestions for the Parliament to be convened.

Despite that, going by the behaviour of the Cabinet members in the recent past, they should be falling over each other to be the first to receive the King’s decree on the convening of the Parliament.

In the first place, if the King was not in the opinion that the Parliament should be convened, surely the Comptroller of the Royal Household would not have been asked to issue the statement to that effect.

That is the crux of the matter.

Now, given that the King’s stand is perceived to not be in their favour, the detractors could turn the table on the self-anointed royalists and point out that not acting on the King’s decree on the Parliamentary sitting could be construed as treasonous.

It would then be merely returning them a favour. But in the face of dealing with the unravelling of the nation, resorting to a similar act would not serve the nation any purpose.

Suffice to point out that the refusal to act on the decree is indeed anathema to the nation’s democratic pursuits, a mockery to its democratisation agenda and a failure to the upholding of the tenets of democracy.

Of course, it can then be argued, the very fact that this is a backdoor government and its ascension is against all the tenets and morality associated with established and accepted universal democratic practices, to expect it to be judicious is itself contradictory.

The conundrum then places the nation in a pitiful quandary.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.