Friday, August 31, 2012

#SaySomethingNice Campaign – Our Constitution

At its core, the 1957 Federal Constitution embodies the spirit of moderation of different groups negotiating ways to move forward together. In doing so, it defines
what each one must give up for everyone to gain something. It found a workable compromise for all.

Whether or not we completely agree with it in total, we cannot deny the genius of our Constitution; how it has managed to bind together the weave of our multiracial,
multireligious and multilingual nation. Rather than be dreamers, our forefathers were wise to be pragmatic to the realities ofour society.

Here I would like to share with you what Prof Shad S.Faruqi has to say about our Malaysian Constitution. He outlines 10 sterling achievements of our Constitution – and a testimony of we Malaysian. This article is taken the preface from his book “ The BEDROCK Of Our Nation : OUR CONSTITUTION


As we commemorate 55 years of independence it is time to reflect on our triumphs and travails, our successes and failures and to renew our resolve to overcome many unmet challenges.

In the area of constitutionalism, most will agree that though the cup is not full to the brim, it is not empty. There is enough in it to relish and cherish and protect and preserve.

The Constitution has survived the vicissitudes of race and religious politics. Despite many political and economic crises that could have torn other societies asunder, our Constitution has endured. It has provided a rock-solid foundation for our political stability, social harmony and economic prosperity.

One can count ten sterling achievements of the socio-legal system ushered in by the 1957 document of destiny.

First is the wondrous durability of political cooperation amongst the country’s racial and religious groups. The coalition of 14 disparate political parties under a sometimes shaky but nevertheless enduring political alliance is perhaps the world’s longest surviving political arrangement. The rainbow coalition of political and ethnic parties that has ruled the country for 54 (plus two pre-Merdeka) years is built on an overwhelming spirit of accommodation, a moderateness of spirit, an absence- of the kind of passions, zeal and ideological convictions that in other plural societies have left a heritage of bitterness and violence. The existence of such a power-sharing arrangement has done much to weld politically incompatible elements together. In a country of autonomous and widely divergent cultural worlds, each in its own orbit, the 14-party Barisan Nasional is the sun that keeps the various planets from colliding with the others.    

Second is the success of the economy which was achieved by giving protection to the right to property and to trade and commerce. An open economy and vigorous development plans made Malaysia one of the economic success stories of the region. A dynamic economy has implications for the realisation of many of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Many constitutional rights have socio-economic pre-requisites for their flowering. Only then can they find expression in reality. It is not an exaggeration to say that food is as important as freedom and bread as important as the ballot box. Five decades of enlightened policies on foreign trade and investment opened up the global economic gateway for Malaysia long before globalization came in vogue.

The economic successes of the country had significant implications for social justice. They helped the progressive elimination of poverty and the securing of the basic necessities of life for the population. The country’s social welfare policies including price controls, subsidies for essential goods and services, highly subsidised medical services for the poor, free primary and secondary education, educational loans and scholarships, credit facilities for small scale businesses, low cost housing, FELDA schemes, legal protection for workers, and the provision of social security have done much to secure dignity for the lower and middle income groups.

Third, Malaysia used the economy to unite its disparate racial groups. By encouraging entrepreneurship and allowing the minority communities to provide leadership in the economic area and permitting them to soar to the heights of their abilities, the government achieved twin objectives. It succeeded in developing the country. It gave to every community a stake in the country.

The fourth sterling achievement is that despite periodic tensions and racist rhetoric, the country’s enduring and endearing inter-ethnic harmony has few parallels in the world. Citizens not only tolerate, they celebrate each others’ religious and cultural festivals. Instead of creating a melting pot, Malaysia painstakingly weaved a rich cultural mosaic. The plurality of lifestyles this engenders has given rise to an extraordinarily multi-faceted society. The various people of Malaysia are like the colours of a rainbow – separate but not apart. No race, religion or region is in a state of war with the government. Except for the racial riots of 1969 and some other instances of communal disorder, ethnic, tribal or religious violence is unknown. For 54 years Malaysia has provided the world with an example of how a fragmented multi-ethnic and multi-religious polity can be welded together in a common nationality.

The fifth outstanding feature of Malaysia is the peaceful and cooperative manner in which social engineering is being accomplished. Unlike some other societies like Fiji, Indonesia, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia  (with a similar problem of identification of race with economic function and the concentration of wealth in the hands of powerful minorities), the Government in Malaysia did not expropriate the wealth of one community to bestow it on another as happened in Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It embarked on a pragmatic expansion of opportunities to give to every community its share of the pie. The country’s efforts at social restructuring have had a clear impact. The success of welfare policies has brought human dignity and the graces of life to many who were living on the fringes of existence at the time of independence. Ameliorative programmes have positive human rights implications because formal rights are not enough; rights must find correspondence in social reality. 

A sixth remarkable feature of the country is the emancipation of women. In the work place, in schools and in universities, women are easily outnumbering men. In the professions they are making their mark and increasingly moving into leadership positions. Recently the Constitution was amended to outlaw gender discrimination in the public sector.

Seventh, Malaysia as a Muslim country is an exemplar of a moderate, enlightened, progressive and tolerant society that embraces modernity and democracy and yet accommodates the spiritual view of life. The imperatives of modernity and the aspirations of religion mingle together. Secularism and Islam co-exist in harmony and symbiosis. Malaysia preserves the best of its religious, cultural and moral traditions and yet keeps the portals of its mind open to the world. It is a nation in which the past, the present and the future blend together beautifully.       

Eighth, Malaysia has successfully kept the armed forces under civilian control. There has been no attempted coup d’etat and no “stern warnings” from military generals to the political executive. Even in 1969 when law and order broke down in the Klang Valley, the National Operations Council was headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak who called the shots with the army and police representatives in attendance. If army personnel commit criminal transgressions, they are arrested by the police and prosecuted in the ordinary courts. Malaysia has kept the armed forces out of politics by creating a subtle check and balance between the armed force and the police force. The numerical strength of the two forces, their equipment and the rank of their top officers are nearly equal. Another remarkable phenomenon is that the extra-constitutional military-industrial complex that, behind the scenes, dictates policy in many democratic countries like the USA has not been able to displace civilian control over military and industrial decisions in Malaysia.
Ninth, Malaysia has very successfully used education as a tool of social engineering and upward social mobility. Primary and secondary education is free and open to all irrespective of race or religion. Tertiary education is highly subsidised. Though the number of public universities has risen to 20 from only one after Merdeka, the government is unable to meet the aspiration of all who seek higher education. Nevertheless, the 90% literacy rate is high on any standards. The opportunities for upward mobility through higher education are almost unmatched in this part of the world.

Tenth, our law and order situation is relatively satisfactory. The recent Bersih 2.0 rally, though criticised by the security establishment, was largely peaceful and proves that, by far and large, in this country liberty does not degenerate into a licence for anarchy. Street violence is not our way of solving problems.

The blessings of Allah on Malaysia are many. There is much in Malaysia’s struggles and successes that is worthy of emulation by friends and foes alike.
But despite our successes we cannot be complacent. As we celebrate fifty-four years of independence, our laws and institutions, our values and our views cannot remain impervious to the changes and challenges all around us.  We cannot operate the way we operated when Malaya began its tryst with destiny in 1957. One must remember Woodrow Wilson’s observation that the Constitution is not a mere lawyer’s document. It is a vehicle of life and its spirit is always the spirit of the age. In the realm of constitutionalism there are always new challenges and opportunities that beckon the human spirit.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#SaySomethingNice Campaign today in the STAR.

Dear Malaysian Politicians,

Peace be with you.

RE: Building a more positive Malaysia

Let us make the period from Hari Merdeka to Hari Malaysia as a time for unity and peace among all Malaysians.

We wish to make the 17 days from August 31st to September 16th each year as a time for truce. During these 17 days, we focus on what makes us One.

This year, we invite you to join us in the #SaySomethingNice campaign. It is a campaign to ask Malaysians to focus on the positives. In this campaign we deliberately go all out to look and appreciate the good in others, even our adversary.

We would be very happy if you can lead us in this campaign. It would be nice to see you acknowledge the good from the other side instead of focussing only on the negatives. For example, we are sure there is something nice to be said about Penang state government’s CAT, just as there are good things to say about the federal government’s GTP.

#SaySomethingNice is a campaign that wants to change the mood of the nation. Together let us create a positive Malaysia. A Malaysia, which focuses on our strengths and not just our shortcomings. With deep conviction, we know that in all our hearts we are One in this.

Why must we do this? Because positive words breed positive actions. We must promote positivity and we must make Malaysians feel good about ourselves and our country. We need to reinforce that while we have some shortcomings, Malaysia is a great country. When we feel great about ourselves, we move forward, add value, and make things happen.

We hope we are not asking too much. We understand that the general election is coming. But by supporting and doing this, you may court many more potential voters.

Thank you.

. Please.


anas zubedy
managing director
zubedy (m) sdn bhd

Please help us to spread this message.

    - Start with ouselves and #SaySomethingNice to our family, friends, and fellow Malaysians.
    - Tweet, blog and write to our political leaders and their supporters and plea for the same.
    - Spread this message through your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, blogs, etc.
    - Encourage others to join in this campaign.
    - For further details and to download this campaign, please visit:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Custodian Of The Custodian Of The Custodian of by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

Muslims and Muslim governments are angry with Bashar al-Assad. They hold him responsible for the massacre of thousands of people, many of them innocent civilians, in Syria. They want him to go.

It is true that Bashar’s army has killed a lot of people. It has used excessive force --- as I have pointed out in a number of articles before this. Anyone with a conscience would condemn the mindless violence that has bloodied Syria in the last 17 months.

But Bashar’s violence is only one side of the story.   The armed rebels opposed to him have also massacred thousands. How else can one explain the fact that almost one-third of the 17,000 people killed so far in the conflict are from the army and related security agencies?

The rebels are not only well equipped with a range of weapons and communication apparatus but are also supported by logistical routes developed by the CIA and intelligence provided by Mossad. Their weapons are delivered through “a shadowy network of intermediaries, including the Muslim Brotherhood,” and “are paid for by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.”   Since April 2012, hundreds, perhaps even a few thousand, militants, some linked to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, from Iraq, Libya, Tunisia and Jordan have crossed over into Syria to fight the Bashar government in what they perceive as a “jihad.” It is reported that out of 200 rebels captured in Aleppo recently, 70 were foreign fighters.

The mainstream media in most Muslim majority states have not highlighted these aspects of the Syrian conflict. Neither have they subjected to scrutiny the authenticity of the news they carry on the conflict and the sources of the news items. As a case in point, the Houla massacre of 25 May 2012 was widely publicised all over the world as an example of the brutal, barbaric character of the Bashar government. Scores of children were allegedly butchered by his militia. A picture of a large number of dead children “wrapped in white shrouds with a child jumping over one of them” was offered as proof of the heinous crime. The picture was actually from the war in Iraq in 2003. The photographer himself, Marco Di Lauro of Getty Images, came out in the open to expose the fabrication.  In fact, the Houla massacre itself was “committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants, and the bulk of the victims were members of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of the Assad”, according to the leading German daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

Houla is not the only case. A Christian nun, Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix of the St. James Monastery has published on the monastery’s website, an account of armed rebels gathering Christian and Alawi hostages in a building in the Khalidiya neighbourhood in Homs, and blowing it up with dynamite. The rebels then put the blame for the crime upon the Syrian army.  There is also the story of Zainab al-Hosni, allegedly abducted by government forces and burnt to death. A few weeks later, Zainab appeared on Syrian television to nail the lie about her. The most widely quoted source for the alleged atrocities committed by the Syrian government is of course the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) which is a one man operation run by a Rami Abdul Rahman from Coventry, England. His statistics have been challenged on a number of occasions by Syrian analysts who have shown why his reporting is unreliable.

It is disappointing that most Muslim governments and NGOs are oblivious to all this and focus only upon Bashar’s wrongdoings. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at its emergency summit held in Mecca on 14 August 2012 reflected this biased approach to the Syrian conflict by condemning only the government while exonerating the armed rebels. A few states such as Algeria, Kazakhstan and Pakistan called for a balanced statement from the summit that would also apportion blame upon the armed opposition but their plea was ignored. Worse, Syria which was suspended from the OIC at the summit was not even invited to the meeting and given a chance to defend itself. It was denied the most elementary principle of natural justice. It is a right that is fundamental to Islamic jurisprudence.

Why has the Muslim world as a whole, especially its elites and its intelligentsia, adopted such a blatantly biased and starkly unjust position on Syria? Is it because many are ignorant of what is really happening in that country, given the orientation of the mainstream media? Or is it because Muslims revere the Saudi monarch so much --- he is after all the custodian of the two holy mosques--- that they are convinced that in seeking the elimination of Bashar al-Assad he is doing what is morally right?  Or is it because many Muslim elites are beholden to Saudi wealth --- and Qatari largesse ---- that they are prepared to acquiesce in their wishes?  Or is it also because of certain sectarian sentiments that Muslims appear to be incensed with the Bashar government?
It is these sentiments that I shall now explore. For many months now a segment of Sunni ulama (religious elites) in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and certain other states have been attacking Bashar as an Alawite leader who is oppressing the Sunni majority. Since Alawites are a branch of Shia Islam, the target has been Shia teachings and the Shia sect. Given the standing of these ulama, their vitriolic utterances have succeeded in inflaming the passions of some Sunni youth who view Bashar and his circle as infidels who should be fought and defeated at all costs. Even the spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, has now joined the bandwagon and accuses Shias of theological deviance and malpractices.

It is important to observe in this regard that in the context of Syria there is no rigid Shia-Sunni dichotomy. The Sunnis given their numerical strength dominate the army, the public services and the private sector. Some of the most critical positions in Syrian society are held by Sunnis. The Grand Mufti of Syria for instance is a Sunni of the Shafie doctrinal school.  Indeed, sectarian, or for that matter, religious affiliation has very little weight in society. In many ways, Syria is a society that has sought to de-emphasise religious and sectarian loyalties and nurture a notion of common citizenship.  Since the beginning of the conflict, it is the Western media that have been preoccupied with the so-called Sunni-Shia divide and appear to be deliberately stoking sectarian sentiments. The Arab media has followed suit.

The way in which Sunni-Shia sentiments are now being manipulated convinces me that geopolitics rather than sectarian loyalties is the motivating force. If sectarian loyalties are really that important, how does one explain the close ties that the Sunni Saudi elite enjoyed with the Shia Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, in the sixties and much of the seventies?  Was it because the Shah was the gendarme of the US and the West in the Persian Gulf and an ally of Israel? Was this the reason why the Saudis could get along so well with the Iranian elite?  Isn’t it revealing that it was only when the Shah was ousted in a popular revolution in 1979 and the new Islamic leaders of Iran rejected American hegemony over the region and challenged the legitimacy of the Israeli entity, that Saudi relations with Iran took a turn for the worse?

Saudi animosity towards the new independent minded Iran was so great that it bankrolled the Iraqi instigated war against Iran from 1980 to 1988. The primary goal of that war was to strangulate Iran’s Islamic Revolution at its birth. The war brought together a number of pro-US Arab states with the notable exception of Syria. Needless to say the US and other Western powers aided and abetted this anti-Iran coalition. It was during this time that anti-Shia propaganda was exported from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan and other parts of South and Southeast Asia. Groups within the Shia community also began to respond to these attacks by churning out their own anti-Sunni literature.

In spite of the relentless opposition to it, Iran, much to the chagrin of its adversaries in the region and in the West, has continued to grow from strength to strength, especially in the diplomatic and military spheres. One of its major achievements is the solid link it has forged with Syria, on the one hand, and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, on the other. It is the most significant resistance link that has emerged --- resistance to Israel and US hegemony--- in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) in recent decades.

Israel, the US and other Western powers such as Britain and France, and actors in WANA like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, are worried. The Iran helmed resistance has increased their apprehension in light of five other related developments.

One, Iran’s nuclear capability. Though Iranian leaders have declared on a number of occasions that they regard the manufacture and use of a nuclear bomb as haram  (prohibited), there is no doubt that the country’s nuclear capability has been enhanced considerably  in recent years.

Two, the inability of Israel to defeat Hezbollah and gain control over Lebanon which it regards as its frontline defence. This was proven again in 2006 and today Hezbollah is in a more decisive position in Lebanese politics than it was six years ago.

Three, the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the introduction of electoral democracy which has led to the rise of Shia political power. Shia political elites in Iraq are by and large inclined towards Iran, which the US sees as a huge setback for its hegemonic ambitions in the region.

Four, the Arab uprisings, especially those that are mass based, like in Tunisia and Egypt, have raised questions about the shape of democratic politics in the region in the coming years. Will it give rise to the emergence of Islamic movements that challenge the legitimacy of Israel, US hegemony and the role of feudal monarchies in WANA?  Or, would it be possible to co-opt the new Islamic actors into the status quo?

Five, how will all these changes unfold in a situation where US hegemony is declining? How will Israel and the other states in WANA that are dependent upon US power for the perpetuation of their interests fare when the US is no longer able to protect them as it did in the past?

For Israel in particular all these developments in WANA portend a less secure neighbourhood. Total control and predictability are crucial elements in Israel’s notion of security. It is because of its obsession with security that guarantees control over its neighbourhood that it is determined to break the link between Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah. It reckons that if Bashar is ousted that link would be broken.

This was obvious in the conversation between Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, as reported by the respected Jewish journalist, Israel Shamir. Netanyahu made it clear that Israel preferred “the Somalisation of Syria, its break-up and the elimination of its army.” Bashar’s successor ---- after his ouster--- he stressed “must break with Iran.”  Netanyahu gave the impression that Israel was in a position to “influence the rebels.”

Since this is Israel’s agenda for Syria, all the moves and manoeuvres of states like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to eliminate Bashar would be very much in line with what Israel wants. Any wonder then that both Israeli leaders and its media welcomed the suspension of Syria from the OIC. In this regard, Israel would have been thrilled to read a pronouncement by Al-Qaradawi in May 2012, widely reported in the WANA media that “If the Prophet Muhammad was alive today, he would lend his support to NATO.”

More than endorsement from within the region, what Israel has always been confident about is the patronage and protection of the US and most of Europe. On Syria, and in the ultimate analysis, on Iran, the Israeli political and military elites know that the centres of power in the West share its diabolical agenda. Indeed, it is Israel that determines the US’s position on critical issues pertaining to WANA. It is the tail that wags the dog.

Israel’s relationship with a major Arab state like Saudi Arabia, (with whom it has no formal diplomatic ties) on the one hand, and the US, on the other, tells us a great deal about who is in charge of who. The Kenyan- American scholar, Professor Ali Mazrui, once described the Saudi-US nexus this way: the problem with the custodian of the Holy Mosques is that there is a custodian of the custodian.

If I may add, since it is Israel that decides US foreign policy in WANA, it may not be inaccurate to say that there is a custodian of the custodian of the custodian.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).


21 August 2012.   

Thursday, August 23, 2012

#SaySomethingNice Campaign

What is #SaySomethingNice campaign?

#SaySomethingNice is a 17-day campaign to change the mood of the nation. We want to create a positive Malaysia. A Malaysia which focuses on our strengths and not just our shortcomings.

From August 31st to September 16th, let us call for a truce and just appreciate each other. During that period, we want our political leaders and their supporters to #SaySomethingNice, acknowledge the good from the other side, and stop fussing over the pettiest of things.

For example, we are sure there is something nice to be said about the CAT (Competency, Accountability, Transparency) initiative, just as the GTP (Government Transformation Programme) has its own noteworthy merits.

Why must we do this?

Positive words breed positive actions. We want to promote positivity and we want to feel good. We do not want gutter politics and we are tired of listening to all the bickering.

How can we do it?

-          Tweet, write and invite our political leaders and their supporters, pleading them to #SaySomethingNice about their opponents during the campaign period.
-          If they do not want to #SaySomethingNice, ask them to at least refrain from saying anything negative during this campaign period.
-          Spread this through your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, blogs, etc.
-          Encourage others to join in this campaign.

When is the campaign?

The campaign period proper is from Hari Merdeka to Hari Malaysia 2012.

When can we start?

Now! Spread the message. Let’s create a better, positive and forward-looking Malaysia.

Sample letter 

Dear Malaysian Politicians,

Peace be with you.

We can make the period between Hari Merdeka and Hari Malaysia as a time of unity and peace among all Malaysians.

As such, we want to make August 31st to September 16th a time for truce. 17 days of appreciating each other. During these 17 days, we would be glad if you and your supporters could go all out to #SaySomethingNice.

It’d be nice to see you acknowledge the good from the other side instead of just nitpicking on every single detail. We hope we are not asking too much out of you. To the very least, please refrain from saying anything negative during this period.

#SaySomethingNice is hoped to be a campaign that will change the mood of the nation. We want to create a positive Malaysia. A Malaysia, which focuses on our strengths and not just our shortcomings. With deep conviction, we know that in all our hearts we are one in this.

For example, we are sure there is something nice to be said about Penang state government’s CAT, just as there are good things to say about the federal government’s GTP.

So why must you do this?

Because positive words breed positive actions. We want a positive environment and we want to feel good.

#SaySomethingNice. Please.


People of Malaysia

What can you do for the campaign?

-          Tweet, blog and write to our political leaders and their supporters.
-          Spread this message through your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, blogs, etc.
-          Encourage others to join in this campaign.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Have a Meaningful Aidil Fitri - tomorrow in The Star


Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub – Saladin (ca. 1138 – 1193); 
the gentleman warrior who was noted for his chivalry, magnanimity, compassion and sensibility even during times of war.

Choose the middle path: End does not justify the means.

Conflicts exist in the realm of politics, business and personal interactions. There must be certain rules of engagement in dealing with dissension. We must learn how to disagree and yet, respect each other.

Saladin, in motivating his army, did not condemn the opposing side. He pointed out the virtues that make their opponents strong, honoured and made them an example. He was a true leader.

Unlike Saladin, many of our leaders and their supporters play the zero-sum game and push things to the extreme. This gradually creates a divisive “I’m right and you’re wrong” gulf, leaving no room or possibility in seeing the good in others. This is poisonous.

We need to better our rules of engagement.

We need Malaysians:

Who know how to balance ambition and courtesy.

Who know how to compromise and yet stay true to their core values.

Who know it is vital to find a win-win situation.

Who engage each other in a civil and gentlemanly manner.

Who can disagree while respecting the other.

Who believe the end does not justify the means.

When we have better rules of engagement, we will have a positive culture to pass down to our young. We will create a nation that encourages courtesy, civility, thinking in our discourse and articulation.

Our legacy is to create a nation who believes in winning with honour and not to sacrifice the means in achieving the end.

At zubedy, our programs draw strength from shared values and traditions. We believe that at heart, all Malaysians want good things for themselves and for their brother and sister Malaysians, simply because our nation cannot prosper as a whole if some of us are left behind.

Let us be first and foremost Malaysians.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Constitutional posers for GE13 By Shad Saleem Faruqi - The STAR

Once Parliament is dissolved, a general election need not be held immediately. The Constitution permits a delay of 60 days from the date of dissolution.
A GENERAL election may be around the corner. So we need to brush up on our knowledge of the constitutional principles relating to elections.
No fixed term: Under Article 55(3) of our Constitution, the life of Parliament is stated to be five years from the date of its first meeting. As that date was April 28, 2008, the existing Parliament will automatically dissolve when the sun rises on April 28, 2013.
However, it is constitutionally permissible for the Prime Minister to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament before the expiry of its term and thereby to give himself the advantage of choosing the most favourable time for the electoral contest.
This is in contrast with many Commonwealth countries including Britain which have enacted laws to have fixed term legislatures. Malaysia may wish to emulate this wholesome practice.
Early dissolution: Though the King is a constitutional monarch required to act on advice, in the matter of early dissolution, he has been explicitly vested by Article 40(2)(b) with a discretion to accept or reject his PM’s counsel. Conventionally, however, he always obliges though in exceptional circumstances he may not do so.
Elections: Once Parliament is dissolved, a general election need not be held immediately. Article 55(4) of the Constitution permits a delay of 60 days from the date of dissolution. This means that contrary to popular expectations of early polls, the next election can be held as late as the last part of June 2013!
One must note, however, that the timing is not for the PM to determine. The nomination date, the date of polling and the campaign period are in the hands of the Election Commission, which must act with independence and impartiality. The present law permits a campaign period of no less than seven days though news has it that for the next election, the EC will permit 10 days.
Interim period: Between the dissolution of one Parliament and the convening of the next, who steers the ship of state? The Constitution is gloriously silent on this important issue. For this reason, the British constitutional convention is adopted that the incumbent PM who called the election continues to remain in office in a caretaker capacity.
Powers of the caretaker PM: Leadership during interim periods poses problems of democratic legitimacy for the caretaker government. This is due to the fact that once Parliament is dissolved, the PM ceases to satisfy the twin requirements of Article 43(2).
These requirements are that the PM must belong to the House of Representatives and he must in the judgment of the King command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House. As the House ceases to exist, the legitimacy rug is pulled from under the PM’s feet.
For this reason there is worldwide debate about the need to impose clear curbs on the powers of interim governments.
In Australia, a Caretaker Conven­tion has been drafted to outline that the proper role of such a government is to be a night watchman, to hold the fort, not to initiate radical policies, not to dismiss or appoint new judges or undertake significant economic initiatives.
In India, the President has on several occasions vetoed caretaker governments’ measures because exercise of such powers may embarrass the government to be formed.
In the Malaysian case of PP v Mohd Amin Mohd Razali (2002) the court held that Article 40(1), which requires the monarch to act on advice, is not applicable if the advice is rendered by a caretaker government during the dissolution of Parliament.
Hung Parliament: If no single party or coalition emerges with an absolute (50% + 1) parliamentary majority, the new legislature will be referred to as a hung Parliament.
Such parliaments exist and function throughout the world but have never made an appearance in Malaysia at the federal level. Commentators are deeply divided about their demerits or merits.
Appointment of PM: Whatever one’s views on hung parliaments may be, it has to be conceded that they create massive problems for the Head of State on a number of issues, among them the critical one of who is to be trusted with the mantle of leadership. Several competing considerations are available.
First is the incumbency rule. If no one secures an absolute majority, the caretaker PM must be given the first chance to form the government.
Second, in Nepal there is a constitutional rule that in a hung Parliament, the first bite of the cherry must be offered to the leader of the largest party.
Third, if a viable coalition or a unity government can be hammered out, it should get the chance to lead the nation.
Fourth, if no coalition can be cobbled together, the Head of State should appoint a “minority government” that is capable of obtaining ad hocsupport to pass the budget and other critical measures.
If the defeated PM asks the King for an immediate “double dissolution”, should His Majesty consent? It is submitted that Article 55(4) requires that after one dissolution the new parliament must be convened within 120 days.
The proper course of action would be for Parliament to meet, a vote of no-confidence to be taken and then only the House dissolved for a new election unless an alternative government can be put in place.
Caretaker’s tenure: If the ruling party fails at the general election, must the caretaker PM who took the country to the poll resign immediately? In England Gordon Brown refused to step down till he had (unsuccessfully) exhausted efforts to form the government.
If the caretaker PM refuses to step down, can the King dismiss him?
If the formation of a unity or coalition government takes a long time, must the defeated Prime Minster re-main in office till a new PM is appointed? Most amazingly, Belgium went 535 days with a caretaker government because the new government took time to be pieced together.
The permutations of politics are many and more than any other aspect of a nation’s political life, general elections throw up issues that test our wisdom to the fullest.

This article has been featured in The STAR online.