Former Ex-Premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has made an open apology for pushing through a law during his tenure that removed the need for the Yang diPertuan Agong to give the final approval before any enactment passed by Parliament became law.
Writing in his blog today, the long serving prime minister admitted that it was the amendment made to the Federal Constitution in 1994 which has now enabled the National Security Council Act (NSC) to be in force even without the Agong’s assent.
“I would like to apologise for the amendment to the constitution which made the approval and signature of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong no longer necessary for the legalising of an act of Parliament,” Mahathir said.
The Mahathir administration amended the Federal Constitution in 1994, without referring to the Conference of Rulers as required, making it such that any Bill approved by Parliament would automatically become law even without royal assent after 30 days.
Before 1994, the Agong had the power to return a Bill to Parliament for reconsideration and to state his reasons for objecting to the Bill.
However, the former Umno president explained that the amendment in 1994 was not total, in that the consent and signature of the Agong was still needed if an enactment passed by Parliament impinged on the Agong’s authority.
“In declaring that the NSC is now legal even though it does not get the assent and signature of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, (Prime Minister) Najib (Razak) is not adhering to the amendment to the Constitution as made when I was prime minister,” Mahathir said explaining that any Act to declare a state of Emergency must have the Agong’s express approval.
According to Mahathir, declaring a state of Emergency was reserved for the Agong because its implications were serious.
“It gives the Government the right to suspend laws. With this right the Government can arrest and detain any person without trial,” he said.
“I sincerely apologise for making the amendment as it is open to misinterpretation,” Mahathir said, adding however, that “the amendment has not ordered the other powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, more than thirty of them, invalid.”
Mahathir then referred to Clause (I) of Article 150, Proclamation of Emergency, which states: “If the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security, or the economic life, or public order in the Federation or any part thereof is threatened, he may issue a Proclamation of Emergency making therein a declaration to that effect.”
“There is no mention in this case that the Agong acts on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong can even promulgate an ordinance which shall have the same force as an Act of Parliament.
“Therefore, there is no necessity for any other laws to enable the Government to suspend laws in order to deal with a security situation,” he said.
Mahathir believes that the NSC is also derogatory to the Rulers, by giving the Prime Minister power that was accorded to the Agong, as per the provisions in Article 38 (4) of the Constitution, which states: “No law directly affecting the privileges, position, honours or dignities of the Rulers shall be passed without the consent of the “Conference of Rulers.”
“Clearly the NSC, by encroaching unto the special position of the Conference of Rulers, is contrary to the rights of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to declare a state of Emergency. For this Security Act to become law, the consent and the signature of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is still needed,” he said.
“So by ignoring the request of the Rulers and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to revise the NSC, it is not complying with the Constitution as amended. This being so the National Security Act cannot become law.”