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Monday, March 24, 2008

Terengganu MB: PM or Sultan’s choice? (updated)

PETALING JAYA: The Terengganu Mentri Besar should be a person who has the confidence of the state assembly, a constitutional law expert said.

Universiti Teknologi Mara Law professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said the position of Kijal assemblyman Datuk Ahmad Said would not be safe even if he was appointed the Mentri Besar by the Sultan of Terengganu.

He said although the Sultan had the discretion in appointing Ahmad as the new Mentri Besar, legally this could be disputed because the person has to command the confidence of the majority of the assembly.

“The Sultan has discretionary powers but this discretion is not absolute. The Sultan is not bound to listen to the advice of Umno divisions or the Federal Government but he has to listen to the state assembly,” he added.

Prof Shad also said that Ahmad, however, has the option of waiting 90 days – until May 13 – to consolidate his powers before convening the state assembly.

“This means he can appoint new state executive councillors, including those from the six PAS assemblymen, or he can even call for a state election,” he said.

Prof Shad said the state assembly or even Umno assemblymen could pass a vote of no-confidence against Ahmad.

“This scenario has happened several times before in Sarawak, Selangor and Kelantan in the 1960s and 1970s, where the Chief Ministers or Mentris Besar were either voted out of office or replaced,” he said.

The office of the Sultan of Terengganu announced Saturday that Ahmad would be the new Mentri Besar of Terengganu instead of Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.

Idris was the choice of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as well as the majority of state assemblymen, but 51-year-old Ahmad had the support of seven of the eight Umno division leaders in the state who lobbied for his appointment at the last moment.

Ahmad was given his letter of appointment at 8.30am Sunday, but palace officials have fixed an indefinite date for the swearing-in ceremony, which was widely expected Sunday as well.

He was stripped of his Umno membership for disobeying the party leadership.

Prof Shad said that Ahmad could go to the courts and claim that his expulsion and removal as Mentri Besar were against "natural justice."

"Umno can also go to court on the basis that his appointment had gone against the Terengganu Constitution," he said.

Ahmad has two choices, Prof Shad added: He step down and let the Regency Advisory Council appoint a new Mentri Besar, or he could dissolve the state assembly.

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