A Perak government circular announces that the state secretariat will be closed tomorrow. The state assembly is located in the second floor of the state secretariat and the closing of the premises is seen as a tactic to stop the convening of an emergency meeting by speaker Sivakumar at the assembly.The circular is unsigned but carried the state government logo.- End of Update --
Perak crisis: What will happen in the next 48 hours?
The next 48 hours look set to be an important phase in the Perak political landscape.
By the end of tomorrow, the constitutional crisis roiling the state could either be clearer or the events can take another nasty turn for the worse.
The constitutional crisis in Perak looks set to deepen tomorrow with the 10am emergency sitting of the state assembly called by speaker V Sivakumar.
The sitting is convened with the twin purpose of showing support for Pakatan Rakyat’s ousted Menteri Besar Mohamad Nizar Jamaluddin as well as to seek the dissolution of the state assembly.
Sivakumar has not invited the BN menteri besar, Zambry Abdul Kadir, and his six exco members for the crucial meeting. Invitations were also not sent to the three former Pakatan representatives, who are now BN-friendly independents.
The two motions to be debated – and expected to be passed by the 28 Pakatan representatives – will mean the new BN state government will come to a quick end, in less than a month since its inception.
Given such a situation, there are a few possibilities that could take place in the next 24 to 48 hours – either that Pakatan is able to dissolve the assembly to pave way for fresh elections or the BN stopping the emergency meeting from proceeding altogether.
As it stands now, the most likely scenario would be for Sivakumar to conduct his meeting as planned and get the motions passed and then submit them to the Sultan of Perak for further action.
It is still uncertain though if the sultan will accede to the wishes of the Pakatan representatives and agree to dissolve the state assembly. The sultan has made his views clear on this matter by appointing Zambry as the new menteri besar on Feb 6.
Perak BN, or the new menteri besar, can go to court and get an injunction against the emergency meeting. This is very likely to happen later today.
However, it has been a convention for our courts NOT to interfere in the functioning of the state assemblies.
“The courts tend to uphold the principles of separations of power in that they are on par with the legislative and executive,” noted constitutional expert Prof Aziz Bari.
Still, in the current political climate, it would be unwise to discount the possibility of judicial activism.
If such an injunction is granted, it would automatically mean that the emergency sitting of the state assembly tomorrow cannot proceed.
The Pakatan government or the speaker can try to revoke the injunction by appealing against it in court, triggering a long drawn out legal process.
It must be noted the Kuala Lumpur High Court is also set to hear tomorrow an application by Nizar on the legality of Zambry’s appointment as the menteri besar.
Another legal aspect which Zambry can contemplate is to seek a court order to allow him, his exco members as well as the three BN-friendly independents to attend the meeting tomorrow.
In such a situation, the two motions can be defeated by BN, with the help of the three defectors.
The downside to this is that the speaker can appeal for a court ruling stating that he is the final authority on matters of state assembly.
Apart from his suspension of Zambry and the six exco members, the speaker can also point out that the status of the three independent representatives were questionable as he has received their resignation letters and had declared their seats as vacant.
This situation will also cause a legal imbroglio with no swift solution in sight.
The Perak BN, which is the ruling party as per the sultan’s appointment, can order all civil servants and legislative assembly staff not to cooperate with Sivakumar and the Pakatan faction.
Doors to the assembly can then be kept shut and assembly officers may refuse to perform their duties. [Update - at 4pm, a state government circular was issued stating that the complex where the state assembly is located will be closed tomorrow].
If such a scenario arises, the speaker has the powers to declare another place as the venue for the emergency sitting and conduct the meeting there.
Even Nizar’s new official residence can be converted to function as a state assembly.
The best the BN can then do to stop the meeting – and this is the least likely thing to happen - is to seek the dissolution of the state assembly, paving way for a snap state election.
The BN was against this option at the outset of the crisis, perhaps fearing that it would not be able to win.
Federal Measures to Ponder
Apart from the scenarios above, there are two other measures which can be taken by the federal government to save its rule in Perak.
However it must be said that both these measures would be highly unpopular, especially with BN facing three by-elections next month, with one in Perak.
Incoming Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is also the BN and Perak Umno chief, will have to be down to his last chips if he agrees to these two measures.
And what are they?
- First, the BN government can instruct the police to arrest Perak Pakatan leaders under the Internal Security Act in the next 24 hours, thus making it impossible for the emergency meeting to take place. High on the list of potential detainees would be Sivakumar, Nizar and his exco members.
- Secondly, the federal government can declare emergency in Perak to invoke direct federal rule in the state. In such cases, the state will be placed under the National Operations Council. This is not a new phenomenon as the BN federal government had done it previously in Kelantan in 1977, in a situation very similar to Perak today where an incumbent menteri besar refused to leave office.