On the 26th of August 2016, Dr Mahathir Mohamad apologised for amending the Federal Constitution of Malaysia in ways that granted the Government of Malaysia (GoM) authority to bypass the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
In a desperate attempt to destabilise the former Barisan Nasional administration, he told reporters that the amendment was a mistake on his part as it presented the government absolute discretion in matters of legislation and tended to strip the rakyat off their right to a say.
But yesterday, he told Parliament that the Pakatan Harapan government had no plans to rectify the situation as he “amended the law (in 1994) in the (best) interest of the nation.”
According to him, should the Agong be granted absolute power to reject a Bill, the rakyat would be stripped off their right to a say as Members of Parliament elected by them could easily be ignored by the ruler.
THE THIRD FORCE
On the 26th of August 2016, Dr Mahathir Mohamad apologised for amending the Federal Constitution of Malaysia in ways that granted the Government of Malaysia (GoM) authority to bypass the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. In a blog posting, the Prime Minister, then a retiree, alluded to a 1994 amendment he effected that allowed any Bill passed by Parliament and Senate to become law within 30 days irrespective if the Agong gave his assent or otherwise. The posting meant two things:
1. Mahathir admitted that he empowered the GoM to pass law without considering objections raised by the Agong, meaning, he did not feel that the Agong had the right to interfere in the legislative process.
2. He vested authority in the GoM to approve Bills that had the potential of further curbing the powers of the Constitutional Monarch as and when the GoM deemed necessary.
The amendment pertained Article 66(4a) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. In 1994, for reasons unknown, the GoM under his watch amended the article for a third time in 10 years pursuant to the Constitution (Amendment) Act 1994. The amendment annulled a multi-tiered procedure he introduced in 1984 that allowed the Agong to object a Bill in writing. Accordingly, His Majesty was given the right to return a Bill to the House it originated from after 30 days and further delay that Bill for another 30 days in the event it was re-enacted.
But all that is history.
It all began in 1983.
Two years into premiership, Mahathir felt that the only way he could consolidate his position in power is if the powers of the Agong were curbed. It bothered him that the Merdeka Constitution imposed no time limit for rulers to give royal assents to Bills presented to them, meaning, the Agong had the right to drag a Bill indefinitely to delay a law. Mahathir wanted none of that and decided that the only way he could bring into effect a pseudo-totalitarian form of control over government is if he amended Article 66 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
Mahathir could easily have amended the constitution to impose a time limit for the Agong to consider a Bill
Instead, he brought into effect a law that granted the GoM the right to bypass the Agong in the event a Bill presented to His Majesty was not approved within 15 days. The said law, the Constitution (Amendment) Act 1983, precipitated a crisis that led eventually to a compromise between the GoM and palaces nationwide.
In 1984, a second amendment to Article 66 provided a multi-tiered procedure that granted the Agong two 30-day delay periods to consider Bills. The first 30-days was for him to either assent to a Bill or to return it to the House it originated from with written reasons for his objections. The second was for him to review the Bill should the Dewan Rakyat have decided to re-enact it. In the event the ruler still refused to give his assent, the Bill would automatically be deemed law once the 30-day period was over.
It wasn’t a complete bypass per se.
The 1984 amendment did compel Parliament to consider objections raised by the Agong. What this means, is that the Agong did have a say in the finer nuances of laws that were eventually passed by Parliament. That didn’t go down too well with Mahathir, who waited a good eight years for an excuse to further curb the powers of rulers. That excuse presented itself in 1992 when Hockey Coach Douglas Gomez was reportedly assaulted by the then Sultan of Johor.
Following the assault, Mahathir pushed for amendments to the Federal Constitution with the stated intent of removing the legal immunity enjoyed by rulers. The amendments came into effect in March 1983 and saw various clauses to Articles 32, 38, 42, 63, 72 and 181 either being reworded or deleted. The mainstream media played up the amendments in multiple flavours and tones to deliver the impression that our rulers were not of sound judgment. Once the impression was set in, a further amendment was made to the Constitution of Malaysia in 1994 to ‘kill off’ the Agong’s say in matters of legislation.
Mahathir has apologised for this.
In a desperate attempt to destabilise the former Barisan Nasional administration, he told reporters that the amendment was a mistake on his part as it presented the government absolute discretion in matters of legislation. According to him, the amendment left no room for higher authorities to contribute in the process of law-making and tended to strip the rakyat off their right to a say. He then accused Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak of using the loophole to grant himself powers akin to those a totalitarian dictator would grant himself.
But today, he’s singing a very different tune.
Having stolen the 14th general election (GE14) on a platform of lies, he told Parliament that his government had no plans to rectify the situation as he “amended the law in the (best) interest of the nation.” According to him, should the Agong be granted absolute power to reject a Bill, the rakyat would be stripped off their say as Members of Parliament elected by them could easily be ignored by the ruler. But that is the exact opposite of what he told reporters on the 27th of August 2016. On that day, he declared that the Constitution (Amendment) Act 1994 was undemocratic as it tended towards a dictatorship that had no regard for the voice of the people.
Did I not tell you that Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the greatest liar our country has ever seen?