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08 May 2010

Zaid insists rulers are subject to Constitution


Datuk Zaid Ibrahim (pic) said today that Rulers’ orders can only become law after going through the legislative process or the country risks ending up a Caliphate.

“If the power to issue orders and directives in matters pertaining to Islam is given to the Rulers without having to go through the legislative process... that would mean we are back to the era... where Caliphs could enforce the law without referring to any other party,” he said today.

Zaid was responding to criticisms levelled at him for questioning the right of the Selangor Sultan to issue a decree that mosques should not be used for political purposes.

He said that Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and, as such, Rulers must abide by the rule of both state and federal constitutions.

The former de facto law minister explained that the power given to the state under Article 74 and 80 of the Federal Constitution to make laws pertaining to Islam is granted to the state’s legislative authority.

“That authority, in my opinion, is the state legislative assembly,” he said.

Zaid had written on his blog earlier this week that the Sultan of Selangor must go through the state legislative assembly to issue orders pertaining to Islam.

The Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) then wrote to him warning him that it was an offence to dispute any order or directive by the Sultan under Section 12 of the Syariah Offences Enactment.

Mais also argued that the Sultan’s pronouncements have the force of law without the need for gazetting.

“Even laws passed by Parliament or by state assemblies you have to gazette. The reason for the gazetting is so that people know what exactly is prohibited,” Zaid said.

“But if the ruler can make orders and decrees that have the force of law, that… don’t have to be gazetted, [that] don’t have to go through the process of the assembly, how do we know what exactly is the scope of that order?”

The former lawyer said it was not his intention to belittle the rulers by questioning the legal limits of their powers.

“It is the legitimate right of every citizen, including myself, to raise the issue.”

“These are issues of public interest and, as a politician, it is my duty to give my views.”

Zaid said he was prepared to seek an audience with the Sultan to explain himself.

He also said that the questioning of legal interpretation should be encouraged.

“We must be able to talk as a democracy about the legal process and the legal provision without fear of being ridiculed.”

He added that he was ready to refer the matter to the Federal Court with Mais “to ascertain the true interpretation of the Federal Constitution and the function of the state legislative assembly”.

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