Friday, January 21, 2022

The law doesn’t work that way, ex-CJ tells those calling for AG to be sacked

Abdul Hamid Mohamad says the attorney-general is expected to state the law as it is even if it doesn't favour the Agong.

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Former chief justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad has questioned claims that the attorney-general disobeyed the Agong in stating that the king is bound by the advice of the prime minister in carrying out official duties.

Hamid, who retired as chief justice in 2008 after more than 50 years of service in the judiciary, noted that successive opposition leaders including PKR president Anwar Ibrahim had called for Idrus Harun to be sacked and accused the AG of belittling and disobeying the Agong in giving his view on the debate surrounding the reopening of Parliament.

“It seems that words such as insulting, belittling, disrespectful and disobedience have taken on a very broad definition to the extent that the AG, who issued official views on the legal and constitutional provisions that limit the power of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, can now be considered as insulting, belittling, disrespecting and disobeying His Majesty.

“So, to avoid it, every time the AG gives advice or is sought by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on an issue of law, the AG must give a view that extends the powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, in other words, to side with him,” Hamid said, in response to recent condemnations of Idrus by top Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders.

Hamid added that the palace had reflected the AG’s view, citing a media statement by Istana Negara in February which said that the Agong could call for a parliamentary sitting during the emergency period “on a date deemed appropriate by His Majesty on the advice of the prime minister”.

“So how can it be said that it was transgressing, insulting and belittling the Yang di-Pertuan Agong; that it was a form of disobedience against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and that he must be sacked immediately; that it violates norms, disrespects the Yang di-Pertuan Agong; and ‘trivialises’ the power of Yang di-Pertuan Agong?” asked Hamid.

He said critics of the AG appeared to suggest that any counsel offered to the Agong must be favourable, or risk being branded as disobedient.

He recalled a special court he had presided over in 2008 which ruled against then-Negeri Sembilan ruler Tuanku Ja’afar Tuanku Abdul Rahman in a dispute involving a commercial bank.

Hamid questioned if the judges in the case were also guilty of disobeying the rulers.

“The law does not work that way,” he added.

Hamid and academic Shamrahayu Abdul Aziz, who holds the Institution of the Malay Rulers Chair at Universiti Teknologi Mara, had previously penned an article explaining the rights and responsibilities of the Agong, in the wake of a debate sparked by the Malay rulers’ call to reconvene parliamentary sittings.

He said the article was meant as an academic piece and not to pander to political sentiments.

He also said the argument that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin does not enjoy a majority is not an excuse to ignore constitutional provisions.

“It could be a political argument that attracts voters, but not a legal argument on whether the Yang di-Pertuan Agong should act on the advice of the AG or not.

“As long as a person holds the post of prime minister, all provisions of the constitution and the relevant laws shall apply,” he added.

“Only when he voluntarily resigns or is disqualified according to the constitution, or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, regardless of whether there was a general election, appoints another person who in his opinion has the support of the majority of MPs – only then will he no longer be the prime minister, and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall no longer heed his advice.”

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