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Monday, March 2, 2009

> Only the Speaker has final say - 2

The Perak assembly secretary Abdullah Antong Sabri today said that the call by the state speaker for an emergency sitting next Tuesday was illegal.

This was because the emergency sitting has not received the consent from Sultan of Perak in accordance with the standing orders of the assembly and the state constitution, he said in a statement.

However in an almost immediate reaction, speaker V Sivakumar's lawyer Chan Kok Keong insisted that the emergency sitting - called to table two motions on the takeover of the state government - was lawful.

Chan said Sivakumar had acted within the provisions of the state constitution and standing orders when he called for the emergency sitting.

According to Chan, constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas has also agreed that the emergency sitting was lawful.

He added that the speaker was lawfully empowered to convene the state assembly on March 3 as the last meeting of the assembly in November last year was adjourned sine die and was not prorogued (suspended).

"If it was prorogued, only the Sultan of Perak can summon the sssembly," he told reporters at a press conference in his office in Ipoh today.

Zambry and his exco not invited

Sivakumar announced on Friday of his intention to call for an emergency state assembly sitting on March 3.

Of the two motions the assembly will be debating, the first was submitted by Titi state representative Khalil Idham Lin Abdullah for a vote of confidence for Pakatan Rakyat's ousted menteri besar Mohamad Nizar Jamaluddin.

The second motion by Chang Lih Kang (PKR-Teja) is for the state assembly to be dissolved in order to hold fresh elections.

Sivakumar said the emergency session does not require the sultan's consent as the 14-day notice is only issued for normal sittings and not emergency sittings.

He said the Perak state assembly secretary Abdullah has been instructed to send out the notice as soon as possible to all the representatives.

BN Menteri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir and his six executive councillors however will not be issued the notice.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has also said that Sivakumar had no power to call for the emergency sitting, stating that the speaker should have waited for the court to decide on the ongoing constitutional crisis in the state.

Speaker: The sitting will proceed

Sivakumar also stressed today that the emergency sitting this Tuesday was valid and will go ahead as planned.

He said that he and legal experts had studied the Perak constitution and the assembly's standing orders in detail and determined that it is within his powers to call for the emergency sitting.

He also lashed out at the legislative secretary, stating that he (Abdullah) did not have powers to interpret the state constitution or the Standing Orders.

Abdullah's job was to follow the orders of the speaker and discharge the duties spelt out in his job description, added Sivakumar.

Meanwhile, Perak DAP state secretary Nga Kor Ming said that a continued sitting of the house from the previous sittings does not require the Sultan's consent.

"The consent was granted before and it is still in force," said Nga, a practicing lawyer and Pantai Remis assemblyperson.

Even if BN decides to boycott the sitting, Nga said Pakatan state representatives would still fulfil the quorum needed to proceed.

"And then once the motion of confidence for Mohd Nizar is passed, it means Zambry has lost confidence of the majority in the house and must therefore resign," he said.

He also warned that anyone who obstructs the assembly proceedings on Tuesday would be deemed to have acted in contempt of the house.

Speaker is the final authority

Constitutional expert Prof Aziz A Bari also threw his weight behind the decision made by Sivakumar.

"I do not think there is a need for the sultan's consent here. And do not forget the speaker has written (to request) for it but the palace failed to respond," he told Malaysiakini.

In any case, he added, the consent was only a formality.

"It is unthinkable that both the Perak constitution and House standing orders envisaged such a consent; it is against democracy for this means that the House is at the mercy of the palace.

"This argument - propounded strangely by the House secretary - is untenable in a scheme like ours," he added.

He also said that the matter to be decided by the emergency sitting was an urgent one, namely to determine the support the existing government has.

"Even assuming that the sultan had validly appointed the government it is still the right of the house to pass a vote of confidence on the Zambry government.

"Whatever it is, the speaker is the sole and final authority on the interpretation of the standing orders; not the sultan, the house secretary or even the court," he added - Malaysiakini.