The move to amend the Selangor Constitution is on but is the Mentri Besar beefing up the powers of the Sultan or is he tinkering to settle a political problem
THE last couple of weeks must have felt like a long baptism of fire for Shuhaimi Shafiei, the assemblyman for Sri Muda.
Posters bearing the handsome face of the PKR politician have been set on fire and red paint splashed all over the front of his service centre. The police have been after him for a blog posting that was seen as casting aspersions on the Sultan of Selangor and the Malay papers have accused him of derhaka or treachery to the throne.
And if all that was not enough, SMSes, allegedly from his office, went out to several news outlets early yesterday morning that he would be resigning his Sri Muda seat.
Pressmen rushed to his service centre but found it closed and locked up.
The red paint on the pavement and entrance had been cleaned up but there were still traces of the vandalism on the signboard, a reminder that his woes are far from over.
But the resignation rumour was apparently not entirely a rumour.
Shuhaimi, a first-term assemblyman, has been under immense pressure.
He is finding it hard to take the endless attacks and criticism. But more than that, he feels he is not getting enough support from his party and the state government.
Very few of his party leaders have come out to defend him – nobody wants to be splashed with the red paint of treachery.
Party sources said Shuhaimi was so fed up and stressed out that he has been talking about quitting.
He has been talked out of it, for now at least.
Shuhaimi and Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim have become the unwilling poster boys of Pakatan Rakyat’s problem with the palace.
Banners bearing slogans and messages critical of the Selangor palace have been springing up in parts of Selangor.
Pakatan politicians have denied putting these up and have been tearing these down.
The Sultan has said that Datuk Mohd Khusrin Munawi should be allowed to carry out his full duties as state secretary.
This was stated openly at a formal palace function and many people cannot help but see Khalid’s continued rejection of Khusrin as spurning the palace.
Khalid is banking on the special sitting of the State Legislative Assembly on Jan 24 to put the matter to rest.
His administration is engineering an enactment that will restore the powers enjoyed by the Sultan before the 1993 amendments to the Federal Constitution and allow the state a say in appointing top executives.
His side is selling it as a move that will empower the Sultan.
They do not have the two-thirds majority needed for the amendment but the strategy is that if the bill fails, it will be because the Barisan Nasional bench did not go along and that would mean Barisan is against more power to the palace.
The argument sounds fine except for one major flaw – it smacks of tinkering with the Constitution to settle what is essentially a political problem.
“I have mixed feelings about amending the Constitution, we are in the 21st century and it would make better sense to give more power to the politically elected than to the monarchy,” said a constitutional lawyer sympathetic to Pakatan causes.
Khalid is attempting what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad did in 1993 except in a reverse manner.
The then Prime Minister was slammed for tampering with the Federal Constitution for his own political agenda and it took some 10 years before people could look back and admit that the move benefited the people.
“Amending the Constitution is not smart politics.
“It’s an overkill, like using an atomic bomb on a mosquito. Moreover, no one has seen the proposed amendment.
“We don’t know if it will be better than the present one,” said the above lawyer.
Khalid has claimed that his government is giving back to the Sultan what Dr Mahathir took away.
Very few would believe Khalid is doing it out of devotion to the Sultan.
The Umno side has pointed out that if Khalid is a true royalist, he would put aside his pride, swallow the bitterness and tolerate Khus-rin.
“They are treating the State Constitution like a political toy and the state assembly as their political playground.
“It is not right,” said Sepang MP Datuk Mohd Zin Mohamad, who is also Selangor Umno secretary.
Pakatan sources suggest that PAS leaders are uncomfortable with the move.
They have had a taste of the overwhelming powers of the palace and are wary of the royals having the last word on state matters.
This was apparently brought up at a meeting between top PAS and PKR leaders on Sunday shortly before they convened for their sembahyang hajat gathering in Shah Alam. But they were assured that the proposed amendment would not succeed and that the aim is to demonstrate that the state government is not against the Sultan.
Another concern is the way Khalid is going about it. Mooted just about three weeks ago, the bill will be tabled in less than two weeks’ time.
Some say the rush is so that they can bring the outcome to the Tenang by-election and quash the perception that they are not with the palace.
“This is the about the Constitution. They should publicise the proposed enactment so that it can be studied and discussed by citizens’ groups and legal experts,” said Umno’s Mohd Zin.
And as some pointed out, even Dr Mahathir went round the country to explain his agenda before he pushed it through. Khalid, they feel, should have done more explaining to Selangorians.
Khalid is seen as the least political of politicians but he is playing big-time politics with the Constitution.