Ask Lord Bobo: Sultan’s Absolute Power, and PR’s Manifesto

From the Selangor Times 1 March 2013. Ask Lord Bobo is a weekly column by LoyarBurok where all your profound, abstruse, erudite, hermetic, recondite, sagacious, and other thesaurus-described queries are answered!

Lord Bobo, does the Sultan of Selangor have the absolute power to decide when to dissolve the Selangor State Assembly? (Constitutional Nerd, via email)

Well, as has been pointed out in a previous Ask Lord Bobo (have you not been paying attention?), the discretion to dissolve the legislative assembly is indeed one that is personal to the Ruler. That means that, unlike all other powers of the Ruler, where he must act according to the “advice” of the Menteri Besar, the decision to dissolve the Assembly is one he can exercise at his own discretion.

However, it is also pretty clear that the Ruler in a constitutional democracy must act according to constitutional conventions, and must understand that the Ruler is only a “constitutional monarch” and not an absolute one.

Some quarters seem to want to reclaim for the Rulers the absolute power they think they used to enjoy prior to the occupation of the Malay archipelago by white skinned people. Some also cite the constitutional imbroglio in Perak, and the decision of Malaysia’s Federal Court in resolving that dispute. Those forget of course that most constitutional scholars have condemned that decision (though one scholar agreed the Sultan of Perak had the power to do what he did, but that he was impolitic in exercising that power in the manner that he did).

Anyway, any self-respecting LoyarBurokker would know what a farce the Perak constitutional crisis was. If you do not, please go and read “Perak: A State of Crisis” which is available in all good bookstores, or at the Pusat Rakyat LoyarBurok. It is best that you purchase it at the Pusat Rakyat LoyarBurok, as at bookstores you will probably have to wade through all sorts of “how to get rich quick” books first (incidentally a good way to get rich quick is to write a silly how to get rich quick book and sit around collecting money as the desperate saps buy your book in the thousands).

Back to the show. Acting in the Ruler’s own discretion does not mean the Ruler is absolute, or that his power can be exercised capriciously. Or even salaciously, deliciously, ambidextrously, or even supercalifragilisticexpialidociously for that matter. The Ruler must act according to conventions established throughout the common law world.It would be unprecedented for the Sultan of Selangor to dissolve the State Legislative Assembly before the Menteri Besar requests for the same. Totally unprecedented. Completely unprecedented. Absolutely unprecedented. Which means, this being Malaysian politics that we’re ruminating about today, it is highly possible.

The Sultan can, in Lord Bobo’s view, dissolve the Assembly over the Menteri Besar’s objections only if the Menteri Besar loses a vote of confidence in the Assembly.

You remember of course (of course you do!) our previous Ask Lord Bobo where His Supreme Eminenceness explained that Parliament would automatically dissolve 5 years from the date it first convened. The same rule applies to the Selangor State Assembly.

But there is absolutely no precedent for the Sultan, of his own motion, to dissolve the Selangor State Assembly without a request from the Menteri Besar, or where there is no situation the Menteri Besar has lost the confidence of the Assembly.

Similarly, there can be no good reason for the Sultan to refuse to dissolve the Assembly if the Menteri Besar requests the Sultan to dissolve the Assembly before Parliament is dissolved. Not wanting separate elections is not a reasonable reason, especially since Sarawak has separate elections for its State elections.

Throughout history (and indeed throughout the cosmos), rulers who have claimed to themselves the divine right to rule their people have eventually faltered, and succumbed to the onward march of democracy. Lord Bobo is confident the wise heads of the Rulers in Malaysia will prevail, and that they will recognise and realise that true power comes from behaving in a manner that ensures the people respect and trust the Rulers.

Dear Lord Bobo, what do you think of Pakatan Rakyat’s manifesto? (Promise Doubter, via email)

To be honest, Lord Bobo has not read the manifesto and does not really intend to. After all, His Supreme Eminenceness is not a Malaysian citizen and therefore will not be voting in the coming elections – we missed the boat on Project IC, you see?

It can only be a good thing that Pakatan Rakyat has published its manifesto, as the people can then read through it and have a solid basis on which to decide whether they want to vote them into power. We hope that Barisan Nasional will also come up with one, so that voters would be able to compare the two and make an informed decision.

As it is, the reaction of Barisan Nasional leaders on social media has been to take turns making snide and immature remarks about the manifesto. Which we have come to expect from these prominent “social media personalities” anyway. We should not be too disheartened by this and assume that these childish Twitter folk are representative of BN as a whole – after all, some of them are hardly influential in the party in the first place and are probably spewing all this hot air in the hope to be recognised, acknowledged, and feeling significant.

So, if you’re a voter, please go ahead and read the Pakatan Rakyat manifesto, and also pressure BN into publishing one of their own.

Let’s leave the petty, childish politicking to the attention-seeking “leaders” on Twitter.

Have a question for Lord Bobo? Call on His Supreme Eminenceness by emailing [email protected], stating your full name, and a pseudonym (if you want), or tweeting your questions by mentioning @LoyarBurok and using the hashtag #asklordbobo. What the hell are you waiting for? Hear This, and Tremblingly Obey (although trembling is optional if you are somewhere very warm)! Liberavi Animam Meam! I Have Freed My Spirit!

You can read archives of all the Ask Lord Bobo columns by clicking here. These are the divinely-inspired words of His Supreme Eminenceness Lord Bobo Barnabus PhD SP GBE OMGWTFBBQ.


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Ask Lord Bobo is a weekly column by LoyarBurok where all your profound, abstruse, erudite, hermetic, recondite, sagacious, and other thesaurus-described queries are answered! It is the ONLY place that His Supreme Eminenceness' thoughts are regularly channeled, via His Lordship's most loyal meditating purple-banana munching minions.

Posted on 4 March 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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