Malay Rulers can act as check-and-balance to Putrajaya, says constitutional expert

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
Shad added that such involvement from the Rulers would promote tolerance, moderation among Malaysians, and combat extremism. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 — The Conference of Malay Rulers is no mere ceremonial body and can act as a constitutional auditor to the government, Prof Datuk Shad Saleem Faruqi explained today.

The prominent constitutional expert, during his remarks at the LawAsia Constitutional and Rule of Law Conference 2019 today, said Malay Rulers can seek answers from the ruling coalition over policy decisions, national interest or any other matters they see fit.

“Nevertheless, the fact that the Constitution explicitly authorises the Conference to deliberate on questions of national policy and on any other matter it thinks fit points to the possibility that the Conference can ask the government to justify policies and supply information.

“Scrutiny by the Conference can supply some check and balance and promote some openness and transparency, and on many occasions, this role has been performed admirably,” said Shad.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, where the authority of the sovereign is stipulated by the Constitution and not supreme, unlike absolute monarchy.

Shad clarified that under the Federal Constitution, members of the Conference of Rulers are eligible to also make their sentiments known about issues that are plaguing the nation.

“In October 2015, when the Conference issued a very strongly-worded statement about 1MDB, and the need to bolster transparency, credibility and integrity in the government, it also expressed dismay that some political leaders and NGOs are sensationalising racial and religious issues.

“The Conference’s assertive involvement implies it is no mere ceremonial body. I agree that the Rulers are constitutional heads, but the Conference of Rulers is not a mere ceremonial body but a constitutional auditor in my view,” he said during the session today titled “Constitutional Role of the Rulers and the Conference of Rulers in Malaysia”.

Shad added that such involvement from the Rulers would promote tolerance, moderation among Malaysians, and combat extremism.

“It can scrutinise any issue. It doesn’t have to be in their state. It may be a federal issue like immigration or illegal immigrants or racism.

“It can ask questions, it can seek any information, it can advise on any matter, it can seek to build bridges between communities, heal wounds, unify our divided and disparate communities.

“I hope and pray that their Majesties will play this role more actively so that we can restore a little bit of the balance that existed in our Merdeka Constitution,” he said.

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