Whither due process in removing Selangor MB?
The political crisis in Selangor and the position of the Menteri Besar (MB) is not a strange phenomenon as witnessed in the past involving Datuk Abu Hassan Omar, Tan Sri Muhammad Taib and Datuk Seri Mohamed Khir Toyo.
Past crises in the richest state had seen changes in leadership in mid-term, ranging from scandals to political manoeuvring for power with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) not being an exception.
The Selangor MB crisis is not the first of its kind in Malaysia as it also happened in the Barisan Nasional (BN) government in Terengganu just a few months ago.
The crisis in its own term reveals the process of decision-making to elect, remove or change an MB as an internal party decision in the interest of pure politics or reasons best known to the party insiders, in isolation of democratic principles or public assessment.
Its impact as witnessed in Terengganu and Selangor further diminishes democratic growth as the public were not able to gauge and participate in the affairs of their own elected government, due to its private state of affairs in the interest of politics.
The Selangor MB crisis must be viewed in context as the PR coalition is not a legal entity like the BN, where a decision is made based on and representative of coalition parties for consensus.
In the case of PR, the consensus is made by way of a support and endorsement of a simple majority from all the elected state legislators (Aduns) irrespective of the party, on the Chief Executive candidacy, for the consent of the Sultan.
The very appointment of Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and previously Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin were done by way of letters of support and endorsement due to mixed representation of the PR parties forming the state governments. The letters are a representation of a vote of confidence and endorsed by the sultan, subject to further scrutiny as governed by state laws and convention.
The appointment of the MB is purely on the platform of the state legislature as in individual vote of support and the royal endorsement for its legal effect.
In the case of the Selangor MB, the previous consensus based on the 2013 general election remains valid until and unless a new consensus are made and represented through a formal letter of support.
It therefore begs the question: why can’t PR, which enjoys 44 state seats out of 56 (with both PKR and DAP 32 Aduns), could not come up with a new consensus for a new MB with a simple majority?
This is easily achievable with or without the unison support from the 12 PAS Aduns and the MB himself as in democracy, consensus is never 100% or without an opposing view.
PR clearly has the numbers for a new consensus in all angles. All it takes is for its leadership to get the support and endorsement of 30 Aduns from both PKR and DAP, with a few PAS Aduns, to put forward a new appointee for the royal endorsement. The position could be clearly achieved with the involvement of agreeing PAS Aduns as clarified by its deputy president, as in the autonomous decision-making by PAS Aduns as Selangor state legislators and its leadership.
The simple majority could also be easily achieved even without the support of PAS Aduns and Khalid himself.
The coalition also has indicated its confidence of getting endorsement of the Sultan, dismissing any involvement from the palace with the suggestion of an unprecedented move for a woman MB as per the recently concluded Kajang Move.
So why can’t PR, who clearly has the numbers with PKR and DAP and some PAS Aduns, or even without, submit their consensus to the Sultan for Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail? Especially so when it has been clearly demonstrated that there is no issue with the final endorsement of the MB by the Sultan over and above the majority advantage? In whatever circumstances, consensus is needed to elect, change or remove an MB with the sultan’s endorsement, so why beat around the bush?
If the parties don’t have the numbers or consensus to replace the MB, all parties should respect the democratic processes and move on with life. If in case there is a serious misconduct on the part of the MB that warrants a removal, then the state legislators have all the right to refer and take disciplinary with due process transparently in the interest of justice and democracy.
It is out of normality to read and discover a trial by media and political attack by MPs who are not the state legislators on Selangor state matters to remove a state chief executive.
It is also out of reason for such crisis of leadership while there is a clear legal process to determine wrongdoing, ranging from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to PR’s own processes as in the state legislature, as in the Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat).
From the onset of the name itself, the notion of competency and transparency of the chief executive’s leadership is covered enough for the leaders from DAP and PKR to impeach the MB based on their own structure.
As it appears, the issue to shake the position of the MB is the Selangor water crisis. The Selangor water issue is a collective responsibility of the state cabinet based on previous collective decisions and a fundamental human rights matter that requires a higher standard of measure and discussion in an objective and transparent manner for deliberation.
It’s a matter that affects the rights of the public and should not just be treated as a mere political issue with unilateral declarations and personal opinions in the media, without any form of accountability or structural deliberation.
It is a matter for an expert research and proper projection and risk assessment in a committee level.
Why can’t PR handle the alleged incompetency and wrongdoing with proper action as in Selcat or its equivalent, and form a new consensus based on the findings and outcome?
Even criminals deserve a due process and justice in transparent manner in a proper forum.
The Selangor MB crisis, as it stands, begs the question of the method and manner in which an elected MB on oath is removed or replaced in the interest of the public and democracy.
The question of selection and candidacy of an MB as per convention remains without a doubt an internal party decision, or that of a coalition, but it must be exercised in adherence to principles of democracy, justice and rights due to the public nature of the office and a person’s right and integrity. The parties should look beyond the mere technicality and rise to the occasion with governing procedures and methods inclusive of the “rakyat” and adhere to it. It is a matter of justice and democratic best practices as preached.
The Selangor situation portrays an unhealthy development for a growing democracy that demands for due process and greater public participation and transparency in the appointment and removal of office bearers. This principle is best illustrated by the recently anointed president of Indonesia, Jokowi, who went to include public participation in the selection of ministers from multiple candidacies with a clear system of engagement from the civil societies and the public at large.
It is 2014 and the era of Cold War is over. In the case of Selangor, public opinion and participation are virtually nil or insignificant but for the theatrics of few national leaders and their personal opinions.
Democracy is a dynamic process which includes the public beyond the ballot box as dictated by participatory democracy.
The issue is of public interest and democracy demands for structures and standards to be observed as the interest of the voters doesn’t end with the ballot box, but continuous.
Political parties are duty-bound to act in utmost transparency and due process in the impeachment or replacement of an MB on oath, and facilitate the public with proper structure, forum and methodology. The voters have the right to know and be told in an utmost transparent way on the reason of the removal and it must be done with due process in a just and democratic manner.
The current practice as seen in the case of Selangor and Terengganu is a failure to adhere to democracy and rights as its governing principle and effective engagement of the legislative structures for a solution.
The solution to the Selangor MB crisis is another example of piece meal democracy where in post-election situation, the question of position and executive leadership remains a political game with real politics as its only consideration.
In the case of Selangor, the solution is to either impeach the MB if problems were discovered with due process and just manner and followed by a new consensus, or move on with life and pending duties.
If the crisis is one of confidence in the entire Selangor administration, then a fresh state election is paramount and the people of Selangor must decide the faith of their own state and its affairs.
The solution is staring straight into the eyes from the very name of the parties involved, as the name People’s Justice and Democratic Action, where justice and fairness should not only be done but done with public interest and be seen to be done, especially when it involves the chief executive of a state government on oath.
It is in the interest of the people and the monarchy to act guided by facts and processes. It is time for true reform and the reform of legislature both in process and mentality in the interest of the very people the political parties seek to represent: the rakyat.