PUTRAJAYA, May 6 — A day before the Perak state assembly meets to endorse a palace-appointed mentri besar, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said his understanding was that any state Ruler cannot remove the head of government.
The former prime minister also said that the constitution did not allow a prime minister or a head of government to be removed except through a vote of no confidence, but he added that he was unsure what the law was for Perak.
“I don’t know how different the Perak Constitution is from the Federal Constitution but if a leader asks the Ruler to dissolve the assembly, the Ruler has the right to refuse. But he cannot remove the head of government either,” the country’s fourth prime minister said during a question-and-answer session after delivering a lecture at the Perdana Leadership Foundation.
“The head of government will then have to function without a majority and can be removed via a motion of no confidence,” said Dr Mahathir, who as prime minister led a successful move to remove the immunity of the Rulers in 1993.
When asked during a press conference after the lecture whether Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Zambry Abdul Kadir is the illegal MB based on his remarks made earlier, Dr Mahathir declined to address the question directly, saying that the matter should be left to the courts.
“I wouldn’t say that. I said the case of Perak is something else, something that is being decided by the courts. But under the constitution as far as I know, the Federal Constitution states very clearly that a monarch cannot remove a prime minister.
“He can refuse to appoint a prime minister but he cannot remove. Once appointed you cannot remove him until there’s a vote of no confidence made against him,” he told reporters. “I think it should be applied to the states but if Perak is different, I stand to be corrected.”
He also said during the question-and-answer session earlier that the state assembly speaker can be sued if there are complaints or if laws are broken. However, the judiciary cannot interfere with the speaker’s decisions on its own.
“If someone makes a complaint or if there is evidence of a breach of law, the judiciary can pass judgment. If what the speaker is doing is in accordance with the law, that is quite different from rules of legislature which have certain privileges,” he said, adding the judiciary can judge only if the privileges are abused.
When asked during the press conference if the Perak speaker had abused his privileges, Dr Mahathir replied that it was up to the courts to decide.
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