There is nothing wrong with Malaysians criticising the Agong's speech or questioning the general election results, for these are  rights guaranteed by the federal constitution, says constitutional expert Abdul Aziz Bari.

“We must always remember that, in this country, it is the constitution that reigns supreme and everybody, including the Agong, is subject to it.

NONE“No one, and this includes the Agong, has the power to deny the rights guaranteed under the country's laws and constitution.

“These include the right to question the election results, so long as this is done in accordance with the constitution,” Aziz (left) told Malaysiakini.

He said this in response to Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan's statement yesterday.

Abdul Rahman had slammed PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim for suggesting that the federal government had used the Agong's speech to get the people to accept last month's general election results.

While conceding that the government indeed had a hand in preparing the Agong's speech, Rahman said the Agong could still change the content if he disagreed with it.

Rahman used the relationship between himself as a minister and his press secretary who prepares his speeches to illustrate the relationship between the Agong and the federal government.

NONEAlthough Aziz conceded that a constitutional monarch might change the text of his speech prepared by the government if it does not involve major policies that may put him in an embarrassing situation, he pointed out that the analogy of Rahman (right) was wrong.

“The relationship between a minister and his secretary is different from the one between the Agong and the government.

“The Umno-BN government has the record of distorting the notion of the Agong as the symbol of authority, even to the point of condemning those MPs who criticised the King's speech during the official opening of Parliament.

“As in any Westminster system. such a speech is essentially the government's speech and policy, even though it is read out by the monarch. As such, the criticism is neither disrespectful nor seditious.”

Hence, he further stressed that it was only right and proper for Anwar to question the Agong's speech.

'Proper' for Anwar to question speech

Echoing this, PKR vice-president N Surendran said it is the norm in Commonwealth countries where the King is bound to accept the advice of the elected government, and in this case - the Agong's speech.

pkr dharmendran dang wangi police 260513 surendranHowever, Surendran (left) noted, by including a contentious issue such as the disputed election results in the Agong's speech, the BN government had breached constitutional conventions.

"This was an improper and ill-advised act by the BN cabinet. Nothing must be done which may undermine our system of constitutional monarchy.

"The contents of the Agong's speech should only deal with government policies, legislative plans, general matters of national interest and other non-controversial matters," he said in a statement today.

Aziz noted that the BN too has stated it would file election petitions, a move that alludes the ruling coalition's refusal to recognise some of the election results as well.

He holds the view that Umno-BN should not use the Agong's birthday as an opportunity to put a political message across.

“I think the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as well as the Conference of Rulers, need to distance themselves from the political stance taken by the government.

“Constitutional monarchy does not necessarily mean the King must follow everything the government has to say; the benchmark is the constitution and the values it contains.

NONE“The speech prepared by the government for the Agong on this particular occasion does not fit within these ideals,” Aziz said.

The rallies organised by Pakatan Rakyat to protest against the election results, he added, encapsulate the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly allowed by the constitution and the police are duty-bound to facilitate these in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

“This piece of legislation must be read and implemented in such a way that it facilitates, and does not reverse, the rights provided for by the constitution.”

After resigning as a law professor from Universiti Islam Antarabangsa, Aziz contested in the Sabak Bernam parliamentary constituency in the 13th general election, on a PKR ticket, but was defeated by an Umno candidate.-malaysiakini