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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Standing on ceremony

2009/05/06 | NST online -

THE Perak state assembly will sit tomorrow. Hugely anticipated, the sitting is expected to end the acrimonious political and constitutional impasse in the state. Or conversely, it could make the situation worse. Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat realise what is at stake and are not likely to give in without a fight. As it is, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir will be tabling a motion to remove Pakatan Rakyat's V. Sivakumar as speaker. The BN has gone even further by nominating former Sungkai assemblyman Datuk R. Ganesan of the MIC as the new speaker. What is ironic about this is that Sivakumar must first give his go-ahead before the motion to remove him can be admitted. Thus, the motion will likely be rejected and the sitting adjourned sine die.

Nobody can predict what will transpire thereafter. Indeed, what has happened, and is continuing to play out in Perak, has been unprecedented. The situation has been amorphous since the crossovers by three state assemblymen resulted in the collapse of the state government. Never before have the state constitution and standing orders been so rigorously studied, interpreted and debated by so many people, including constitutional experts and politicians with differing opinions. There has so far been a maze of legal suits, public gatherings and statements by leaders and supporters. But there are no straightforward solutions. Where the speaker is concerned, the laws pertaining to his rights and scope of powers are untested and there are ambiguities that have given rise to diverse interpretations.

All this will doubtlessly culminate in a fight for seats -- perhaps in the literal sense -- when the state assembly convenes. Former menteri besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin has indicated that there will be tussling in the state legislative hall by saying that he is ready to rebut kerusi or make a grab for the seats on the right of the speaker, which by tradition goes to those in the government. Such attempts to undermine the integrity of this institution of state would be unacceptable. It is imperative that the sitting is allowed to be carried out in a dignified and honourable manner. All necessary procedures have been followed in convening the assembly and it is vital that everyone plays by the rules. What is also as crucial is for cool heads to prevail outside the State Secretariat building. Mass gatherings without police permits are illegal and all those who plan, organise or take part in them must be made to feel the full force of the law.

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