Bar Council urges snap elections in Perak

By Deborah Loh (
Bar council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan
PETALING JAYA, 19 Feb 2009: The Bar Council has reiterated (corrected) its stand on the Perak constitutional crisis — let the people decide.
Its president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said snap polls were now the best solution in view of new developments involving the suspension of Barisan Nasional (BN)-appointed Menteri Besar Datuk Zambry Abdul Kadir and his six executive councillors.
Ambiga said there were differing views on whether Speaker V Sivakumar followed the correct procedure in the suspensions.
One view is that the Speaker and the Committee of Special Privileges were acting within the powers vested in them, while another view holds that the suspensions ought to be referred to the state assembly before they can take effect.
Because of this, Ambiga said more suits are expected in the days to come.
“The legal actions are not the first and are unlikely to be the last.  This is not desirable and does not provide an effective and definitive solution.
“Going back to the people of Perak will. We urge the parties involved to seriously consider doing so, not only in the interest of the people of Perak but also in the interest of stability and the nation as a whole,” she said in a press statement today.

Ambiga also noted that whether Sivakumar had followed correct procedures in ordering the suspensions, the matter lay “outside the jurisdiction of the courts” because of Article 72 of the Federal Constitution.
Article 72 spells out the privileges of the all state legislative assemblies, whereby the validity of its proceedings cannot be questioned in court.
“There are some overriding principles that operate in such situations. One is the doctrine of separation of powers, which means that the Judiciary cannot interfere in the workings of Parliament or the state assembly, as they have the privilege of regulating their own internal affairs and procedures,” Ambiga said.
The same doctrine applies to the Executive, which cannot influence the workings of Parliament and state assemblies.
“We say this as it has been reported that there are attempts to lodge police reports against the Speaker of the Perak (legislative) assembly, which would violate these provisions,” Ambiga added.
She was referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s advice to Zambry to lodge a police report against Sivakumar.
Abdullah said the Speaker had disrespected Sultan Azlan Shah who appointed Zambry and the excos.

Police reports pointless

Similarly, former Bar Council president Yeo Yang Poh said there was no basis for Zambry to lodge a police report against the Speaker because no criminal offence had been made.
“It is difficult to see what the offence is. Whether one agrees with the suspensions or not, it is a matter of interpretation and debate.
“If the report is lodged based on disrespect of the Sultan, what is the criminal offence? Is it to say having a difference of opinion is a criminal offence?” Yeo said.
Law lecturer Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari said people were free to lodge police reports on anything, but in this case, police could do little about it.
“The courts have consistently ruled that the House — whether it is the state legislative assembly or Parliament —  is autonomous in its own right,” said Abdul Aziz who is with the International Islamic University.