Saturday, December 4, 2021

Anwar’s letter-writing campaign to palace points to ignorance of Agong’s constitutional role

Senior lawyers say the king does not have the constitutional power to revoke the emergency as urged by Anwar.

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Eyebrows have been raised within the legal fraternity over a petition launched by PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim to get MPs to send letters to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to revoke the declaration of emergency, saying it points to an ignorance of the Federal Constitution.

Several senior lawyers approached by MalaysiaNow also expressed surprise at the move, saying it was possible that the opposition leader had been “ill-advised by his legal team”.

Anwar, who heads the three-party Pakatan Harapan coalition, today said he had prepared a draft letter to guide MPs when they write to the palace.

He told the MPs that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s move to declare a Covid-19 emergency was not valid, adding that the movement control order (MCO) was enough to fight the pandemic, which has been infecting thousands of people daily and killed 578.

Anwar said the Agong should cancel the emergency declaration and order for a parliamentary session convene at the end of this month, adding that MPs should send their letter by today.

But a senior lawyer expressed surprise that the “constitutionally improper” move “was coming from an opposition leader”.

He said the Agong in declaring or revoking a state of emergency was bound to act on the Cabinet’s advice, as stated in Article 40(1) of the constitution.

“In short, the king does not have the constitutional power to revoke the emergency as urged by Anwar.”

He said the power of the Agong to act at his own discretion is explained in Article 40(2).

“But declaring or revoking an emergency does not fall under 40(2),” the constitutional lawyer told MalaysiaNow on condition of anonymity, fearing that the matter would drag him into “unnecessary politics” on social media.

“In short, the king does not have the constitutional power to revoke the emergency as urged by Anwar,” he added.

The MCO and state of emergency were announced back to back this week amid a continuous surge of new virus cases, as authorities warned that the country’s public health system is at a breaking point.

Muhyiddin had assured that the state of emergency would not lead to military rule, but would suspend Parliament to ward off any threat of snap polls that experts said would be disastrous to efforts to contain the pandemic.

Another constitutional lawyer meanwhile told MalaysiaNow that Anwar’s petition campaign to revoke the state of emergency was akin to urging the Agong to act in a manner inconsistent with the powers and duties of a constitutional monarch.

“Making the letter public as a media statement also puts the palace in an awkward position, particularly since the issue has become the subject of political bickering.

“The king is above politics, and should not be dragged into such matters,” he added.

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