Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DPA Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the Seremban DAP Anniversary Dinner held at Peninsular Plaza, Seremban on Saturday, 13th February 1993 at 7 p.m
Constitutional amendment to remove the Rulers’ immunity to commit criminal and civil wrongdoings a historic political development and a victory of the people
The consent given by the Conference of Rulers on February 11 to constitutional amendments removing the Rulers’ immunity to commit criminal and civil wrongdoings and bringing them fully within the law is a historic political development in Malaysia a victory of the people.
In the past month in particular, the people of Malaysia learnt for the first time in the mass media from government sources the shocking and extensive royal excesses and abuses of power which had been condoned by the political leadership all this time.
Such royal excesses and abuses of power are wrong and against the rule of law and must be stopped immediately. The equally relevant question is why the political leadership at both national and state levels had condoned such royal excesses and abuses of power all these years.
This is why the DAP had consistently stood firm by the principle that no Royalty should be above the law to commit criminal and civil wrongdoings – even at a time when it was regarded as grave crimes tantamount to sedition, lese-majeste and treason to question and criticize royal trangressions.
This was why DAP Deputy Chairman and MP for Jelutong, Sdr. Karpal Singh, was suspended from Parliament for 20 months in 1984 for raising in Parliament the assaults committed by the Sultan of Johore. In fact, what Sdr. Karpal Singh said in Parliament in 1984 on this matter was regarded as so offensive that it was ordered to expunged from the parliamentary records.
This was also one of the reasons why DAP leaders were detained under the Internal Security Act during Operation Lallang in 1987 as Karpal Singh had summonded the Sultan of Selangor to court for acting unconstitutionally.
DAP had never compromised on our stand in support of the principle that no should be above the law and be at liberty to commit criminal and civil wrongdoings, and that every aggrieved individual of any Royal wrongdoing should be able to secure redness and justice under the existing system of law.
It is therefore most unfortunate that the DP had been accused by certain irresponsible elements of championing the right of the Rulers to assaults and kill people when the DAP MPs cast the abstention vote on the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill in the special sitting of the Dewan Rakyat on January 19.
DAP wants the Rulers’ immunity to be removal without jeopardizing the constitutional status of the Chinese and Tamil languages as well the citizenship rights of non-Malays
The DAP had made it very clear before, during and after the special Parliamentary sitting on January 19 that we fully supported the principle and provisions of the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill to remove the Rulers’ immunity. DAP MPs voted in abstention on the Bill, however, because there was no consent of the Conference of Rulers as required by the constitution for such amendments.
Under the Federal Constitution, there are several provisions which are ‘entrenched’ clauses which could not be amended by a mere two-thirds parliamentary majority, but which also needs the consent of the Conference of Rulers for such amendments to become valid law.
Such entrenched clauses include constitutional guarantees for mother-tongue languages in Article 152 and citizenship rights of non-Malays under Part III of the Federal Constitution.
If a precedent is allowed whereby the Federal Constitution could be amended in utter disregard of its status as an ‘entrenched clause’, then the other ‘entrenched clauses’ concerning the constitutional guarantees on the free use, teaching and learning of the Chinese and Indian communities as well as citizenship rights of non-Malays could also come under peril in future.
DAP wants the Rulers’ immunity to be removed, but we want this to be done in a manner in accordance with the constitutional requirements so that the constitutional position and status of mother-tongue languages like Chinese and Tamil and citizenship rights of non-Malays would not be jeopardized.
This was why the DAP urged the Government and the Rulers to return to the discussion table so that such a constitutional amendment could be validly made with the consent of the Conference of Rulers, and why on behalf of the DAP, I reminded the Rulers in the special Parliamentary sitting that the will of the people must finally prevail.
The DAP’s position has been vindicated by the joint statement by the Rulers and the Government on their agreement on the constitutional amendment, for clearly without the consent of the Conference of Rulers, no such constitutional amendment bill could become valid law and the country would be plunged into a protracted constitutional crisis gravely undermining Malaysia’s economic prospects.
This was why when such an agreement was announced, the DAP had no hesitation in declaring that the DAP MPs would vote in support of the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill to remove the Rulers’ immunity when it is remitted back to Parliament by the Yang di Pertuan Agong.
With the end of the constitutional crisis, the people can focus on the excesses and abuses of power by the political elite and to demand greater accountability
The removal of the Rulers’ immunity to bring them fully within the purview of the law is a welcome though belated democratization process.
However, such a democratization process would only be fully meaningful if it is extended to curb all forms of excesses and abuses of power of those in privileged positions, especially the political elite in government. It would be a setback for democracy if the net result of the constitutional crisis is to confer on the political elite in government greater ‘immunity’ for their excesses and abuses of power.
In the past one month, the people learnt for the first time the multitude of royal excesses and abuses of power, which the Government said represented only the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
Thinking Malaysians must wonder what multitude of revelations there would be if the cover is also lifted to expose all excesses and abuses power of the political elite in government.
There is one additional reason why I welcome the end of the constitutional crisis, as the people can now focus on the excesses and abuses of power of the political elite in government and to demand greater accountability.
If the Rulers and royal members must accede to the people’s demand for greater public accountability, it is not asking too much that the political elite in government should submit themselves to greater accountability and responsibility to the people as well.
There is no doubt that in the past two months, the constitutional crisis had swept all other issues from the national lime-light.
Samy Vellu had been one of the chief beneficiaries of the constitutional crisis
The $130 million MAIKA Telekom shares hijacking scandal, for instance, seemed forgotten and buried.
If not for the constitutional crisis, the seemingly unexpected National Energy Crisis, with Malaysia following the footsteps of the Philippines in having regular disruption of power supplies, would have been the front-page headline news.
When the country was plunged into a nation-wide power black-out on September 29 last year, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir said it should not have happened and ordered an investigation – – which had not yet been made public.
I am sure if Dr. Mahathir had been asked at that time whether he would expect a National Energy Crisis to hit Malaysia in a matter of months, with regular disruption of power supplies, undermining Malaysia’s industrial development as well as scaring off intending investors, the Prime Minister would have denounced such a suggestion as not only ‘inconceivable’ but ‘preposterous’
There is no doubt that the Minister for Energy, Telecommunications and Post, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, had been one of the chief beneficiaries of the two-month-long constitutional crisis, as it had averted sharper public scrutiny and accountability for his role as Energy Minister for the past five years. He is not the only one however.
DAP’s historic challenge to the Election Commission’s challenge to the Election Commission’s unconstitutional action in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Tuesday
In the past two months, the constitutional crisis dislodged virtually all issue from the public consciousness, as for instance, the government interference with the Election Commission in the redelineation of the electoral constituencies.
The Constitution requires the Election Commission to be independent, operate impartially without any political interference from any quarter so as to gain the confidence of the people and all political parties and to uphold the democratic process as to adhere tp the democratic principle of ‘one-man, one-vote’ in the redelineation of electoral constituencies.
All these consideration were disregarded in the recent redelineation of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies, and this is why the DAP had taken the Election Commission to court to challenge the constitutionality of its redelineation of electoral constituencies.
The DAP’s suit challenging the constitutionality of the Election Commission’s redelineation of the electoral constituencies has been set down for hearing in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Tuesday.
This is a historic challenge, not only because this is the first time that the Election Commission is being sued over redelineation of electoral constituencies, but because we believe that we have a formidable case against the Election Commission.