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Friday, May 8, 2009

Zambry struggles for legitimacy

MAY 7,2009 | malaysianinsider — Having been installed as mentri besar by the palace, Barisan Nasional’s Datuk Dr Zambry Abd Kadir would naturally expect to run Perak smoothly. It never crossed in his mind that he would face such big challenges. To date he has had great difficulty convincing the people that he is the legitimate MB and not Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin.

The noble intentions and the sweet words alone cannot replace the people’s perception that his government is an illegitimate one. Like it or not he has to live with such a tagline throughout his tenure as MB.

This is the price that he has to pay when his party robbed a state which was duly installed by the rakyat in the last general election. Nizar may lose the governance but he has managed to garner overwhelming support from people of all walks of life, transcending religious and racial barriers.

Since being appointed as MB, Zambry has been struggling for legitimacy. For now there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

His feeble attempt to depict Nizar as a traitor did not work. The people just would not buy his argument that by failing to resign Nizar has been acting in defiance of the Sultan’s prerogative powers. In fact, the people responded to such an argument by saying we are more comfortable with the alleged traitor than a confirmed robber. If you can rob a state how are we convinced that you are not going to rob our money and our dignity.

Zambry tried in vain to kill Nizar’s lawsuit at the infancy stage through the instrument of the Attorney-General's office. When the matter was first heard before Justice Lau Bee Lan, the A-G sought to fast track the matter by asking the judge to refer to the matter to the Federal Court. What A-G did was definitely wrong as at that time the A-G was not party to the action, thus he had no business asking the court to refer to the matter to the Federal Court. Despite vehement objections by Nizar’s lawyer, the judge, with due respect, bowed to the A-G’s pressure and in turn referred the matter to Federal Court. Despite being asked to stay the referral pending an appeal to the Court of Appeal, the judge didn’t bother to grant an order of stay.

When the matter went to the Court of Appeal, the latter affirmed the decision of the High Court. Thus Nizar was prematurely forced to go to the Federal Court. Zambry was too confident that he would obtain a victorious judgment in the Federal Court, thus wiping out Nizar's suit against him once and for all. But God was with Nizar. The Federal Court unanimously overturned the High Court’s decision and remitted the matter to the High Court again. The Federal Court judges in unison rejected the A-G’s argument that the matter could be referred to under section 84 of the Court of Judicature Act as that very section dealt with the interpretation of the Federal Constitution whereas Nizar’s suit involved the state Constitution.

The matter went back to High Court and this time before a new judge. Zambry was still adamant to have Nizar’s case dismissed at the preliminary stage. Hence the A-G played his role again. This time the A-G objected to Nizar’s application for leave for judicial review. Under Order 53 of the Rules of High Court 1980, any application for leave for judicial review needs to get leave from the court. The application must be served on the A-G. The A-G has the right to object. As a matter of practice the A-G will not object unless such an application is clearly frivolous. Nizar’s application definitely does not belong to the frivolous category, thus one would expect the A-G not to mount any objection. But raise an objection was what the A-G did.

The A-G contended that Nizar was challenging the Sultan’s prerogative power. Nizar's suit, the A-G argued, was in fact an attempt to challenge the Sultan’s power through the backdoor.

On April 3, the court, in granting leave to Nizar’s application for a judicial review against Zambry, held that such an application was not frivolous. The court concurred with Nizar’s lawyers that he has passed the minimum threshold required in the leave application.

The judgment of the court simply means Nizar has been able to establish an arguable case against Zambry. The judge declined to uphold the A-G’s strenuous objection. Rejecting the A-G’s argument that Nizar was challenging the Sultan’s prerogative power, the learned High Court judge held that Nizar has every right to assert on what authority Zambry could say that he is the lawful mentri besar when Nizar claims himself as the legitimate MB of Perak.

This has frustrated Zambry. Not only has his dream that Nizar’s suit would be terminated at the preliminary stage not materialise but he now needs to put up a credible defence. He has engaged a private lawyer to defend him. Despite being unlucky in his first attempt to refer the matter to the Federal Court, he continued with his second attempt to fast track the suit. He hoped to get a judgment in his favour before the sitting of the Perak assembly today. He desperately wanted to go to the state assembly as a legitimate MB. Thus he needs to be armed with a court judgment proclaiming that he is the legitimate MB of Perak.

Once again God was with Nizar. Zambry’s attempt to get the Federal Court hear and dispose of the matter failed once again. The Federal Court unanimously dismissed Zambry’s application. Thus the matter was remitted to the High Court.

The High Court heard the matter on May 4 and then continued on May 5 and 6. Zambry wanted badly a judgment in his favour before May 7. The court has not made any decision . In fact the court wanted Nizar’s lawyer to make a closing speech on May 7.

Umno may be proud of ultimately being able to convene a state assembly sitting on May 7, of course, with the aid of the police who can be found everywhere in Ipoh.

Whether Zambry also shares the same pride remains unclear. Without a judgment by the court proclaiming him as a valid MB, his presence in the state assembly today has no beneficial meaning. For the people on the street he is still an illegitimate MB a.k.a a trouble maker.

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