Friday 8 July 2011

King’s ‘independence’ surprises Umno leaders, say sources

July 08, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 — The Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s “independence” over the Bersih issue through his edict and meeting the electoral reform group is causing some consternation among Umno politicians, including several ministers, sources say.

The Malaysian Insider understands that they are upset by Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin’s decision to grant an audience to Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan last Tuesday, arguing that it is outside his constitutional powers.

A Cabinet minister confirmed with The Malaysian Insider that dissenting views were raised during the weekly Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

“They felt that the Agong is not the executive arm of the administration and the Agong must subscribe to the constitutional monarchy system where he acts on advice of the PM.

“So most of the ministers felt that this was done without PM’s knowledge. But PM knows, so actually, it was a wrong assumption,” said the minister.

The minister added that the disapproval was also largely because the government had already declared Bersih 2.0 an outlawed organisation.

The King’s agreement to meet Ambiga, said the minister, gave the appearance that the Ruler did not recognise the Bersih 2.0’s status as illegal.

“But if you look at it another way, the Agong did not see Bersih 2.0. The King allowed Ambiga as an individual to meet... not as a Bersih representative because it is an illegal organisation.

“So the Agong meeting Ambiga does not legalise Bersih 2.0… it does not mean that Bersih 2.0 is now recognised. There is no such mechanism; you still have to be registered with the Registrar of Societies first,” the minister said.

The minister also confirmed that the government had prepared the King’s intervention text last week but disagreed that the Ruler had altered and released it without giving prior notice.
“Not true. It was checked and the PM was aware,” the minister said.

The King stepped in to diffuse the heightened tension over Bersih 2.0’s planned rally last Sunday, urging all parties in the conflict to seek a resolution through consultation.

The King had also called for peace, saying that street rallies would bring more harm than good even if its original intention was good.

The Ruler later agreed to grant an audience to Ambiga and two others on Tuesday, after which the Bersih chairman announced that the coalition would take its rally off the streets and relocate it to a stadium.

But to date, its application to hold the event at Stadium Merdeka in the capital city here has been rejected by the government, inviting criticisms from the coalition and opposition party leaders that the administration was acting in conflict with the King’s advice.

Asked that same day if he had also met the King, Najib declined comment, but noted that it was his prerogative as the Ruler’s adviser to hold such a meeting.

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