Is A ‘Constitutional Coup’ Occurring In Malaysia? – OpEd


A swing away from representative government towards monarchical government 

A committee within the Dewan Rakyat (lower house) of parliament approved the Police (Amendment) Act 2024 for a full vote of the house on March 27. Within the bill is the appointment of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA), or king as the Honorary Commissioner-in-Chief of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM). 

This is a new position within the police force, which expands the powers of the YDPA. This move is just one more sign of the growing power of the monarchy. Two years ago, the massive Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) was made responsible to the Rulers, rather than the minister for religious affairs within the Prime Minister’s Department (PMO). The YDPA is already the Commander-in-Chief of Malaysia’s armed forces, where all of the rulers hold honorary positions. 

Sultan Ibrahim, who became YDPA in January for a five-year term, would be expected to use the power of this new position. The YDPA recently said he would begin his “real way of ruling”, after the ‘honeymoon phase of his ascension to the throne. 

In parliament last week, Hassan Abdul Karim was concerned that the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong or king could be liable for what the PDRM does in the future

Mahathir Mohamed back in his first tenure as prime minister weakened the authority of the YDPA by allowing a bill passed by both houses of parliament to become law, should the YDPA refuse to proclaim the Act as law. Now, with a much weaker prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in power, the rulers are enjoying a renaissance in the powers they hold and can exercise. Power held by the executive is now swinging towards the rulers, where in this case the power of the Home Minister has been greatly eroded. 

Malaysian’s witnessed how ceremonial powers can be used to the fullest, with the recent raids on the KK Super Mart stores in Johor, where civil servants of the Johor Religious Department, Department of Domestic Trade, and local councils followed ‘Titah Tuanku’ or royal decree issued by the Johor Regent Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim. 

Anwar Ibrahim’s ‘unity government’ is enabling the necessary legislation to give more powers to the monarchy than are currently within the constitution. Malaysia is now witnessing a dramatic shift in the balance of power from representative government towards a monarchical form of government, where the PDRM will no longer be responsible to the executive or parliament. Sedition laws may become an barrier and impediment to any future criticism of police work undertaken under the new organizational hierarchy. 

Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia. Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region. Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.

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