Saturday, 30 April 2011

Taib in 100-metre Race to the Palace

The Sarawak's General Election was concluded more than 2 weeks ago. To me there was no big surprise as I had expected such a result. The fact that the Chinese voted very heavily against the BN (said to be their dissatisfaction with the Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud) and that Taib's party, PBB still managed to score big victories in the rural areas and retained two-third majority in the state assembly, had been well expected.

However what was more of a surprise to me was Taib's decision to race to the palace to be sworn in as Chief Minister as soon as the BN achieved a simple majority that very night itself. Why couldn't he wait until the next working day? Perhaps he was influenced by a similar act by Tun Mustapha of Sabah several years ago when he managed to get himself sworn in as Chief Minister despite his party not getting the required majority in the election to form the state government. He was obviously badly advised into thinking that the 6 appointed seats could be taken into account for the purpose of determining whether he had got the simple majority required before he could be sworn in as Chief Minister. Perhaps Taib wanted to prevent such an event from happening to him.

Taib is well aware that his continued stay in power has come to be less certain given the fact that he has been there for more than 30 years. This has been compounded by the recent court decision in the Perak crisis which made it clear that the loss of confidence against a Menteri Besar / Chief Minister could be taken anywhere, not necessarily on the floor of the legislative assembly. Hence, by extension, the presidency of a political party could also be determined through a meeting (not necessarily an EGM or AGM) held anywhere. Any assemblyman/delegate can gang up with other assemblymen/delegates to pass a no confidence motion in his house and if carried the Chief Minister/party president is validly removed. This can be a chilling nightmare for any president of any political party or chief minister/menteri besar especially for one facing a groundswell of dissatisfaction from certain quarters, not necessarily from his own party members. Interestingly, the event very similar to the Perak crisis took place in Sarawak in the 60s where the then Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningkan was dismissed by the Governor at the instigation of the then Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Ningkan brought the case to the court which decided in his favour saying that a Chief Minister could only be removed by the state Assembly through a motion of no confidence against him at the floor of the assembly. This precedent was however not followed by the court in deciding the Perak case.        

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