The call by the Malaysian King for federal lawmakers to approve the upcoming budget has raised a stir, with some questioning whether he has overstepped his constitutional limit.
Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah on Wednesday called on MPs to "give fulsome support" for Budget 2021, which will be presented in Parliament next week.
A statement issued by the national palace said: "Sultan Abdullah advises MPs to give fulsome support to Budget 2021 for the people's well-being and continuity of their lives, as well as to help the nation's economy, which has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, recover."
The King had earlier met Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who discussed with him the contents of the budget for next year.
Constitutional lawyer Gerard Lordesamy wrote that it is not the constitutional role of the sovereign to advise MPs on the matter as the prime minister is answerable to Parliament.
"That is the core of our parliamentary democracy. A health pandemic is not a valid reason to weaken the basic structure of the Constitution," he wrote on Wednesday on the Malaysiakini news site. "It is equally irresponsible for a prime minister who is plagued with political issues from within his own ranks and also externally to hide behind the Crown to save himself by resorting to constitutional juggernauts and somersaults," Mr Lordesamy added.
But others said the King has not overstepped his constitutional role as the context of his intervention must be taken into account.
Sultan Abdullah had on Sunday rejected Tan Sri Muhyiddin's request for the King to invoke a national emergency.
An emergency decree would allow Mr Muhyiddin to push through the annual expenditure without a parliamentary vote.
By parliamentary convention, the failure to pass a supply Bill to fund the government is akin to a no-confidence motion. In this case, the event would result in the collapse of the Muhyiddin administration.
Barisan Nasional secretary-general Annuar Musa said yesterday that the message from the ruler was just "advice".
"Advice is advice and we hope it is adhered to, but it is not illegal... to take a different position as it is their (MPs') right," Tan Sri Annuar told reporters. "But we do hope His Majesty's call is given a serious consideration."
Sunway University political scientist Wong Chin Huat said while the "royal advice" would likely help Mr Muhyiddin avoid outright defeats in the second and third reading of the budget, the King's intervention is unusual. This is because one of Parliament's key functions is to scrutinise and approve the budget, he said.
Giving his take on the King's intervention, constitutional lawyer Nizam Bashir said the context matters.
"We must not lose sight of the context within which the royal decree was made - the country is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. MPs were therefore reminded that national interest must take priority over personal interest," Mr Nizam told ST.
Universiti Malaya political analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi said Sultan Abdullah's advice does not equate interference. "At the end of the day, MPs have the right and freedom to individually, or in a group, express their views in Parliament. Whether they're for or against the budget, it doesn't mean they're disloyal to the King," he said.