The Monarchial Conundrum

It happened in Perlis, Perak (a much different scenario thrown at him admittedly), Selangor and now has reached a crescendo in Terengganu-the meddling of royal families (in states with Sultans) in the composition of state parliaments, especially the appointments of the Menteri Besar/Chief Ministers is a sign of the weakening stability in Malaysian politics. They may well see themselves as guardians of stability, but no one voted them into office!

The situation regarding the role of the Sultans in appointing and meddling into parliamentary appointments must be reviewed and clarified. First, it is clearly not enough for us to expect that (unelected) Sultans will act in within the spirit of the constitution in appointing CMs and meddling in the composition of state cabinets. Clearly, it is time to spell out exactly what they CAN and CANNOT do.

Second, the archaic rules that state that the Sultans are the head of Islam at state level and that the CM advises them on religious matters means that the CM must be Muslim needs to be looked into. I am no expert on Islamic affairs but I assume this is a point that is more historical/cultural than Islamic. After all, should the 'head' of Islam at state level not be a learned Muslim? Should there even be a head? The Catholics and Shia Muslims have a hierarchy, but I'm not convinced Sunni Muslims do, or do they (I don't know)?

Nevertheless, I doubt this will ever change (Sultans being the head of Islam), but surely the notion that the CM must be Muslim in order to advise the Sultan on Islamic matters can and must be challenged. If the Sultan is the head of Islam at state level, then why is he taking advise on Islamic matters from the CM, unless it is clear that he is no Islamic expert? Neither is it clear that the CM will be an Islamic expert-hence it is clear that the CM is actually receiving advise from an Islamic 'expert' (however defined). It is this 'expert' who should be advising the Sultans directly-either in a cabinet capacity (Minister for Islamic Affairs) or non-political office (State Mufti).

Let the CM be the best person for the job-do not let the position be restricted only to Muslims-at this juncture, the various state constitutions do seem to allow the Sultans to exercise discretion on this matter-once again, this should be taken out of their hands. Let the constitutional monarchs be beholden to the people, and not vice-versa. If they do indeed want to influence policy, I suggest they run for political office like everyone else.

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