Thursday, March 19, 2009

Parliament should reject Najib

Parliament should reject Najib
Friday, 20 March 2009 12:38

Now, there is a case to be made that Najib does not deserve to be PM, and I agree with it. His approval ratings are abysmal by the standards of Malaysian politics, and he is mired in scandal and controversy.

John Lee, The Malaysian Insider

Former Law Minister Datuk Seri Zaid Ibrahim thinks the King should reject Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak as our next Prime Minister, and appoint another Member of Parliament from Umno to succeed Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

I agree with Zaid that Najib should not be the next Prime Minister, but I strongly reject the idea that this decision is one that the King should make.

The King’s constitutional obligation is to appoint a Prime Minister who will command the confidence of Parliament, and if he appoints anybody other than Najib to the PM’s post, all we will have is another Perak constitutional crisis writ large. The true decision ought to rest with Members of Parliament—MPs must unite to reject Najib as our next Prime Minister, and endorse an alternative candidate, such as Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Why did the Perak crisis arise in the first place?

It arose because the ruler refused to put the question of who is the rightful menteri besar to either the democratically-elected state assembly or the people of Perak themselves a year ago; instead, he chose to personally intervene and appoint a person of his own choice to the position of menteri besar.

It is not all that different from a similar crisis which arose in Terengganu at the same time; the ruler appointed a state assemblyman who was not the choice of Umno to lead the government.

In both cases, there was an uproar because the ruler overrode the wishes of the people and arguably overstepped his constitutional bounds.

Now, there is a case to be made that Najib does not deserve to be PM, and I agree with it. His approval ratings are abysmal by the standards of Malaysian politics, and he is mired in scandal and controversy.

In almost any other parliamentary democracy, it is unimaginable that Najib would still be Deputy PM, let alone on the verge of becoming the most powerful man in the country.

Zaid has laid out a powerful case for rejecting Najib as our PM, and I agree completely with it.

But that does not mean the King has the right to reject Najib. For one, the King would be on shaky constitutional ground here. Even assuming it would be legal to reject the clearly expressed wishes of the party in power — a virtually unprecedented move in parliamentary democracies — Parliament would in all likelihood pass a vote of no-confidence against whoever the King appoints.

The King appoints the PM, but Parliament always has the power to throw the appointed PM out.

The question that then arises is whether Parliament actually would reject the King’s choice. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt in the last year, it is that Malaysian politics is increasingly unpredictable, but I strongly suspect that Parliament would do so.

The King is not a supreme monarch, accountable to nobody. He is supposed to act in accordance with the Constitution, and to serve his subjects as best as he can in line with the responsibilities the Constitution grants him; to reject the wishes of the Malaysian people, who undeniably returned BN to power in the last general election, is to abandon these duties.

Parliament is supposed to represent the people of Malaysia, and so it is to Parliament that we must turn. We must convince our MPs that Najib is not the best choice amongst the men and women of Umno to lead Malaysia, and that another person such as Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is best-placed to govern.

It is the King’s responsibility to appoint a Prime Minister who commands the confidence of Parliament—the confidence of the people.

At the moment, Najib does not hold the confidence of Malaysians, and rightly so—but the problem is that he clearly holds the confidence of a majority of MPs. And unless those MPs hear from their constituents, they will continue to assume that Najib really has the confidence of the Malaysian public.

The responsibility does not rest with the King to reject Parliament’s judgement of its own leaders; the responsibility rests with us to tell Parliament that we deserve better than Najib Tun Razak.

Malaysians love to complain to our representatives about all sorts of things, especially petty things like drains and potholes, but when it comes to important questions, like who should be our Prime Minister, we remain curiously silent outside the mamaks and kopitiams.

We need to show our MPs that we do not want Najib as our PM, that we want better from our government. We need to show our MPs that if they do not give Najib the boot, they will face a harsh and resounding verdict from their voters come the next election.

In a parliamentary democracy, the King does not call the shots — it is the voters who do. Our civic responsibility does not stop at the ballot box — it is a responsibility we must uphold, day in and day out, as Malaysians who care about the future of our country and our families.

For the sake of us all, please tell your MP to reject Najib Tun Razak as the next Prime Minister of Malaysia.

John Lee is a second-year student of economics at Dartmouth College in the United States. He has been thinking aloud since 2005 at

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