Mahathir defends rulers' right to comment

KUALA LUMPUR • Former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday said the country's royal rulers had some executive roles to play and were acting within the Constitution when they issued a joint statement this month asking the government to quickly conclude investigations into troubled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

"In making their statement, the rulers were not in any way exceeding the provisions of the Constitution. They were in fact abiding by the provisions of the Constitution," Dr Mahathir wrote in a post on his blog.

The post was an apparent response to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who earlier this month, when commenting on the royal statement, referred to the doctrine of the separation of powers that the country's nine royal rulers are subject to.

The royal statement issued on Oct 6 was the first time the sultans of the nine royal houses had commented on the 1MDB issue that has dragged on for more than a year.

Dr Mahathir said the royal statement was a result of the "failure of the Cabinet to address complaints by the people" over the 1MDB saga and other issues, The Malaysian Insider reported.

"It is true that the Agong and the Malay rulers are constitutional monarchs. But that does not mean that they are just rubber stamps to validate all the acts of their governments," he wrote.

Malaysia's sultans serve as the ceremonial heads of nine of the country's 13 states, alternating as the nation's king - known in Malaysia as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong - every five years.

Dr Mahathir cited several provisions of the Constitution which, he said, clearly give the king some executive roles.

He said these included Section 40 paragraph (2), which allows the king to exercise discretion in the appointment of the prime minister and in the withholding of consent to dissolve Parliament.

Dr Mahathir, who was Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister, had sought to curtail the power of the Malay rulers during his time in office. In 1993, he successfully introduced limits to the monarchs' immunity from prosecution, and, in 1983, his administration removed the monarchs' power to veto any legislation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'Mahathir defends rulers' right to comment'. Print Edition | Subscribe