Monday, March 2, 2009

Perak Assembly calls for dissolution, polls (updated)

Updated: Tuesday March 3, 2009 MYT 12:22:13 PM

Perak Assembly calls for dissolution, polls (updated)

IPOH: The emergency sitting of the Perak State Assembly passed three motions Tuesday, including one calling for the dissolution of the assembly to pave the way for fresh state elections.

The sitting was held under a tree in a vacant lot about 200m from the state secretariat building after Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen were barred from entering the building, under what former mentri besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin has described as the “doctrine of necessity.”

Nizar said three motions were passed: First, a motion of confidence in himself as the legal Perak mentri besar; second, an agreement to seek Royal consent for the dissolution of the state assembly; and third, the adoption of the suspension of Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and six executive councillors he appointed.

The first motion was proposed by Teja assemblyman Chang Lih Kang while the second was proposed by Titi Serong assemblyman Dr Khalil Idham Lim Abdullah. All three motions were agreed to unanimously by the Pakatan assemblymen who attended the sitting.

The emergency sitting was called by State Assembly Speaker V. Sivakumar, saying he was invoking Standing Orders 8 and 11 so that the assembly could vote on two motions.

Dr Zambry had earlier described the emergency sitting as “invalid and unlawful” because it had not received the consent of Sultan Azlan Shah.

“He (Sivakumar) has used his powers unfairly to achieve his own political agenda and he had ridiculed the proceedings of the House,” he said.

Pakatan lawyers say the Ruler’s consent was only needed to summon a sitting by way of royal proclamation if the assembly had been dissolved or prorogued (adjourned by royal prerogative). But because the last sitting was adjourned, the assembly could carry on its usual business in an emergency session.

Push and shove
Police and Federal Reserve Unit personnel had set up roadblocks and barred the main entrance of the state secretariat building early Tuesday morning in an attempt to block the proceedings.

The building houses the offices of the mentri besar, state secretary and the state legislative assembly.

Supporters of both Pakatan and Barisan Nasional had initially gathered peacefully, but when the Pakatan assemblymen, led by Nizar, arrived at about 9:45am, Barisan supporters lined up to deny them entry.

There was some pushing and shoving. Ipoh OCPD ACP Azisman Alias issued a warning that anyone, including elected representatives, who refused to disperse would be arrested.

Police told Nizar and the assemblymen that they were not allowed in, but said Sivakumar could enter. Instead, the Speaker declined and attired in his official garb, convened the emergency sitting in the vacant lot nearby.

Snap polls
Pakatan, which took over the state after the 12th general election last March, has been trying to call for new state elections after it begin to see its rule slipping away earlier this year.

The crisis began on Jan 25 when Bota assemblyman Datuk Nasarudin Hashim resigned from Umno to join Pakatan component party PKR, which led to rumours of many more cross-overs to and from both sides of the political divide.

The crisis deepened after Behrang assemblyman Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi and Changkat Jering assemblyman Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu, both from PKR and both facing corruption charges, went “missing” for a few days, only to resurface after a few days to announce they were quitting their party.

At the same time, Jelapang assemblyman Hee Yit Foong announced she was quitting DAP, another Pakatan component party.

All three declared they would remain independent but pledged their support for Barisan.

At the time, Sivakumar said that he had received letters from the three reps saying they were also vacating their seats, but the Election Commission decided that the resignation letters were not valid as they were undated and that there was no need for by-elections in their constituencies.

To add salt to Pakatan’s wound, Nasarudin announced he was switching back to Umno after fewer than 10 days as a PKR man.

With that, both Barisan and Pakatan held 28 seats each in the state assembly, but the three independents’ pledge of support to Barisan tipped the balance enough for Sultan Azlan Shah to declare Barisan as having the support of the majority and he refused Nizar’s request for the state assembly to be dissolved and snap elections be called.

Court battles The tussle will also play out in the courts, with Nizar having filed an application for a judicial review to challenge the legitimacy of Dr Zambry as Perak mentri besar.

The case will be heard on Tuesday before High Court (Special Powers and Appellate) Court judge Lau Bee Lan, six days after Judicial Commissioner Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof recused himself from hearing the suit.

In his application for a judicial review, Nizar is seeking an interpretation of the Perak state constitution on whether the mentri besar’s post can be vacated in a situation whereby:

* THE mentri besar had advised the ruler on the dissolution of the state legislative assembly; * THERE is no dissolution of the assembly; * THERE was no motion of confidence performed against him at the state legislative assembly; * THERE was no resignation made by him.

He is also seeking a declaration that he is the legal mentri besar of Perak and asking for an injunction to stop Zambry from carrying out the duties and functions of the mentri besar; and also punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages and costs.

On Monday, Perak executive councillor Mohd Zahir Abdul Khalid served an originating summons on behalf of the three independent reps -- Jamaluddin, Mohd Osman and Hee -- seeking a court declaration that they were still elected representatives of their constituencies.

The three were challenging the Speaker’s decision that they had resigned and that their seats were vacant. This case will be heard on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Dr Zambry has sought a court declaration to make illegal Sivakumar’s suspension of him and his six exco members. This case will also be heard on Tuesday morning.

Dr Zambry said he was seeking a declaration that Sivakumar’s decision was unconstitutional and ultra vires the state constitution.

He sought declarations that he and his exco members had the right to attend sittings and that the House was not to be bound by any rules by, or instructions from, the Speaker.

Previous blow-by-blow report:

(11.20am) Nizar to seek audience with Sultan Azlan Shah to ask for dissolution of Perak state assembly as soon as the documents from Tuesday’s emergency sitting under a tree in a vacant lot is completed.

(11.15am) Nizar says three motions were passed during the Emergency sitting on Tuesday - motion of confidence on himself as the legal Perak MB; agreement to seek Royal consent for dissolution of state assembly; and the adoption of the suspension of MB Zambry Abdul Kadir and his Excos by the Rights and Privileges Committee.

(10:40am) At the High Court, Sivakumar’s lawyers withdraw from the case after Judicial Commissioner Ridwan Ibrahim rules that private lawyers have no locus standi and cannot represent the Speaker.

Ridwan says that under the Government Proceedings Act, the Speaker can only be represented by the state legal advisor, or lawyers appointed by the latter, because he is part of the state government.

Sivakumar’s lead counsel, constitutional expert Tommy Thomas, says they will await further instructions from the Speaker. He said they were refused speaking rights under Ridwan’s ruling.

(10:35am) Nizar proposes that the emergency sitting of the assembly be adjourned. Sivakumar adjourns.

(10:25am) Titi Serong rep Dr Khalil Idham says Nizar is the rightful mentri besar and wants him to continue. Canning assemblyman Wong Kah Woh says that Pakatan has ruled the state well since taking over last March.

Teja rep Chang Lih Kang proposes a motion asking for the dissolution of the state assembly to call for a new election.

Both motions are agreed to by all Pakatan reps.

(10:20am) After “doa selamat” prayers, the meeting commences with the hearing of the first motion from Titi Serong assemblyman Dr Khalil Idham Lim Abdullah.

He says the trust and support have been given to Nizar as mentri besar. Sivakumar asks for the motion to be debated.

(10:15am) Although allowed entry into the state secretariat building, Sivakumar did not go in. Attired in the official garb of the Speaker, he declares a vacant lot about 200m from the building as the venue for the emergency sitting.

(10:05am) Nizar gets into his car. Discussions going on between PAS, PKR and DAP assemblymen and Members of Parliament (MPs) on their next course of action. One MP is in the car with Nizar.

They are expected to head towards the DAP state headquarters where they might hold a press conference.

(10:00am) Pakatan assemblymen and Nizar not allowed into building, but police allow Sivakumar to enter. A policeman says, “YB tidak boleh masuk (Yang Berhormat is not allowed in).”

Pakatan supporters make a protective ring around their assemblymen so that they will not be chased away. Assemblymen start moving away however.

(9:45am) At the High Court, lead counsels for both sides are briefing the judge in chambers. They emerge from chambers at 10:17am to brief their legal teams.

(9:40am) Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen, including former mentri besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, arrive at state secretariat building for emergency sitting of Assembly called by Sivakumar to vote on two motions related to the constitutional crisis in Perak.

Barisan Nasional supporters have lined up to prevent them from entering. Some pushing and shoving going on.

(9:00am) Federal Reserve Unit personnel have been deployed in front of state secretariat building, at least seven trucks being used to block main entrance. Police had already set up roadblocks on roads leading to the building earlier this morning.

A small crowd has gathered, comprising party members, lawyers, supporters and many members of the media.

(8:45am) Lawyers from both sides start arriving at Ipoh High Court in preparation for hearing of lawsuit filed by Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir against State Assembly Speaker V. Sivakumar.

Dr Zambry is seeking a court declaration that Sivakumar’s suspension of Dr Zambry and his six excos from the state assembly is unconstitutional.

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