Selangor constitutional change: Winners and losers

Khusrin’s appointment on New Year’s Day had thrown the state into a constitutional impasse. — Picture by Jack Ooi
ANALYSIS, Jan 24 — As expected, Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) bid to alter the state constitution fell through today.

PR’s 34 assemblymen could not convince any of their 20 Barisan Nasional (BN) counterparts to go along with the state government’s proposed amendment, which required 38 votes — or two-thirds — of the 56-member assembly.

If passed, the amendment would have allowed the Sultan — under the mentri besar’s counsel — to appoint the state secretary, legal advisor and financial officer instead of the federally-controlled Public Service Commission.

Here are some of the winners and losers after today’s verdict:

WINNERS

Pakatan Rakyat

Despite not being able to obtain power of appointment for Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, it will be able to turn the tables on Umno and accuse them of being “derhaka” (treasonous) for not supporting a bill it said would grant the Sultan a constitutional role in the appointment of top state officers.

They “played a very dangerous game,” said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.

“But they will definitely make immediate political gains by exposing Umno’s hypocrisy as champions of the Malay rulers,” he added.

Look for PR, especially PKR, to make full use of the issue in the Tenang by-election campaign that concludes on January 30.

The Sultan

His Royal Highness became “inordinately exposed and ... the subject of political scrutiny,” said opinion research expert Ibrahim Suffian from the Merdeka Center.

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had to become involved in the political row several times but made it very clear that the ruler is above politics and always neutral.

But analysts agree that with both PR and BN looking to position themselves as defenders of the Malay royalty, the Selangor palace has become more influential.

LOSERS

Barisan Nasional

They may have been right to accuse PR of merely wanting to take power for itself, rather than the Sultan, but this will be a case of karma coming back to haunt them.

PR will attack the Umno-led coalition by bringing doubt and suspicion to Malay voters over BN’s sincerity in supporting the monarchy.

Just as BN accused PR of not respecting the decision of the Perak Sultan after its coup in 2009, it will also have to face accusations that “by rejecting the amendments, they were rejecting the Sultan,” said Ibrahim.

Khoo said that this will be difficult as “on the one hand, BN has to say that they were not disrespecting the monarchy but on the other, they will have to answer why they wanted to keep the power of appointment at federal level.”

Selangor public

The biggest losers in all of this. For a month the administration has dwelt on the appointment of Datuk Mohd Khusrin Munawi as state secretary and will likely try to find other solutions to the dispute.

In that period, Selangor witnessed political rhetoric that threatened to add a third “R” as a central socio-political issue.

With racial and religious sentiments already simmering under the surface, the issue of royalty may in the long run come to the mainstream of Malaysian democracy if politicians continue to harp on it.

The people of Selangor did not get power returned to the state from the federal government, and instead of having a government and elected representatives who are accountable to the people, “we are seeing them taking several steps back by arguing over who is more loyal to the Sultan,” said Khoo.

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