KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — The Barisan Nasional (BN) government disrespected the monarchy and ignored their constitutional role by gazetting the National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016 without express royal assent, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said today.
Dr Wan Azizah, who is also PKR president, said it was unacceptable for Putrajaya to gazette the law — which empowers the government to declare localised emergencies, even though the Federal Constitution assigns the authority to proclaim emergency to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong — without royal assent, considering the “legitimate and well-grounded reservations” that the Rulers had expressed about the NSC Act.
“This is an unprecedented and dangerous development in our constitutional history,” said Dr Wan Azizah in a statement.
“The Rulers play an integral and crucial role in considering and approving Bills passed by Parliament. Their role is especially important in the context of our country, where the BN has long ignored fundamental freedoms and constitutional niceties,” she added.
The Mahathir administration, however, had amended the Federal Constitution in 1994, which was not referred to the Conference of Rulers according to constitutional law expert Dr Abdul Aziz Bari, so that any Bill approved by Parliament would automatically become law even without royal assent after 30 days. All state constitutions carry a similar clause.
Before 1994, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had the power to return a Bill to Parliament for reconsideration and to state his reasons for objecting to the Bill.
Both Houses would then have to debate on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s objection and may pass the Bill again with or without amending it, present it to the Ruler again, upon which he would have to assent to the Bill within 30 days.
The Federal Constitution was previously amended in 1983 to give the Yang di-Pertuan Agong 60 days to delay Bills passed by Parliament, after which they would become law even without his assent.
Before the 1983 amendments by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong could delay indefinitely Bills passed by Parliament, with constitutional law expert Professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi reportedly saying that the monarchy never had veto power on legislation.
The NSC Act 2016 was gazetted Tuesday under Article 66(4A) of the Federal Constitution which states that a Bill will automatically become law and will be considered to have received assent from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, even if he does not expressly give his approval within 30 days after it has been presented to him. The law is not yet in force.
The NSC Act proposes to allow the National Security Council — which would be chaired by the prime minister — to take command of the country’s security forces and impose strict policing of areas deemed to face security risks.
According to the Act, the jurisdiction of the NSC takes effect once the prime minister designates a location as a “security area” — a status that is valid for six months at a time, subject to renewal by the prime minister.