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The monarchy: What is Mahathir up to?

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We reproduce a commentary by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman about then premier Mahathir’s relationship with the Rulers in 1990.

Dr Mahathir in rapt attention beside the Yang Di Pertuan Agong, July 1989. The PM transgresses established protocol by his absence at the February 1990 Conference of Rulers. Is there a rift in the relationship between the monarchy and the government?

I must express my deep disappointment that the Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad did not attend the Conference of Rulers held on 28 February 1990. He was out of the country at that time. The Deputy Prime Minister was also out of the country. And so the Yang Di Pertuan Agong had to be accompanied to the meeting by the Minister of Defence, Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen.

This creates a very bad impression among the public. It conveys the feeling that the government and the monarchy are not working together. Indeed, people may even conclude that the government of Dr Mahathir is trying to boycott the Conference of Rulers.

According to Article 38 (3) of the Federal Constitution, it is very clear that whenever the Conference of Rulers deliberates on national matters, theYang Di Pertuan Agong shall be accompanied by the Prime Minister and the Rulers and the Governors shall be accompanied by their Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers respectively. This is an important aspect of protocal, an important procedure in the governance of Malaysia, which should be upheld.

When I was Prime Minister for 13 years frm 1957 to 1970, there was never an occasion that the Conference of Rulers met to discuss national matters, without the Prime Minister being around. If I could not be around, there was no Conference of Rulers.

If the Prime Minister has to attend to some urgent matter abroad, then at least the Acting Prime Minister should accompany the Yang Di Pertuan Agong to the Conference. But the Deputy Prime Minister was away. There was no Acting Prime Minister. Why did they have a Conference of Rulers when both men were out of the country? Isn’t this disrespectful to the Rulers?

There is another episode which shows disrespect for the Rulers. On 19 March 1990, the Yang Di Pertuan Agong paid an official visit to the Prime Minister’s office. The Prime Minister was not there to receive him. It is the practice for the head of a particular Ministry to receive the Yang Di Pertuan Agong with full honours and accord a warm welcome to him.

On 17 April 1990, the Yang Di Pertuan Agong visited the Ministry of Home Affairs. Again, Dr Mahathir who is Minister of Home Affairs, absented himself. He did not receive the Yang Di Pertuan Agong. Instead, the Deputy Miniser of Home Affairs was there.

All these episodes have created confusion in the minds of the people as to Dr Mahathir’s motives. What is he up to? Why is he avoiding the Yang Di Pertuan Agong and the Rulers? Why is he transgressing established protocol and procedures in the relationship between our constitutional Monarchy and the government?

It would be nice if Dr Mahathir could give an explanation to the people so that we will know what is really happening between the Yang Di Pertuan Agong and the Rulers, on the one hand, and Dr Mahathir, on the other.

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