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Lawlessness and the Perak assembly

By P. Ramakrishnan
President of Aliran

Thursday, 07 May 2009

Chaos has descended upon Ipoh and the rule of law has been savaged by the brutish behaviour of Perak Umno state assemblymen.

What we witnessed today will condemn us forever for reducing a much-respected institution into the law of the jungle. Decorum was not observed and the rule of law was totally discarded.

By refusing to be bound by the rules of the assembly, the Umno assemblymen and sergeant-at-arms have demeaned democracy and the democratic process.

The same conduct that arrogantly discarded the mandate of the Perakians in the power grab engineered by Datuk Seri Najib Razak is at play once again in the state assembly, ignoring the sanctity of the assembly and displaying the very arrogance that has no place in this sacred institution.

There was no need to have pushed for this sitting of the assembly when the status and legitimacy of Datuk Zambry

Abd Kadir as Perak mentri besar is still in question. This very crucial issue had not been legally settled and yet the Umno assemblymen could not wait for the resolution of the issue. They are bent on taking over the state assembly by any means — mostly by foul means.

The sergeant-at-arms has no authority to disobey the orders of the Speaker. It is not their business to take sides nor to decide whether the instruction given is right or other wise. They don’t seem to know their place or understand their role.

The police have acted in a diabolical manner and did not act professionally and in an impartial manner as they are required to do so. They are seen to be acting pro-Barisan Nasional and in a high-handed fashion in arresting so many people who had not posed any serious threat to the security of the nation.

There was no entry into the 500-metre zone to keep people away from the vicinity of the assembly. They have made it clear that anyone breaching this court order will be arrested.

That being the case how did Datuk R. Ganesan gain access into the assembly to be illegally “elected” Speaker of the assembly? Ganesan was even prepared to use force to grab the Speaker’s chair, proving that he is prone to violence. This is clearly conduct unbecoming of someone aspiring to be the Speaker of the assembly.

On what basis did the sergeant-at-arms and the police forcefully and physically act to evict the lawful Speaker of the assembly in this outrageous manner? Isn’t the assembly out of bounds for the police to walk in and act in this atrocious way?

It appears that the police are also in league with the Umno assemblymen to do their bidding in helping the Umno assemblymen to take control of the assembly.

It is not even clear that the Perak state assembly had been convened legally and legitimately for the Umno motions to be tabled and adopted.

In a rough shod manner they had bulldozed their way to secure their position with scant respect for formal procedure and protocol.

Law and order has completely broken down in the Perak state assembly and in this state of lawlessness Umno has taken charge of the Perak state assembly. This is no honourable takeover of the august body. It is a shameful way of acquiring power through brute force.

Najib must be held responsible for this pandemonium. He had created this situation in bringing about the change of government that has resulted in the bedlam that we witnessed in the state assembly.

If only the earnest appeals and prayers for the dissolution of the state assembly had been heeded we would have had a people’s government to govern Perak.

This injustice will be rectified at the 13th general election when the rallying cry will be “Remember Perak — Remember the injustice.”


Bar says 7th May a bleak day for democracy

The Malaysian Insider
Thursday, 07 May 2009

The Bar Council has condemned the police interference and what it says was “unwarranted action” in putting down protests and removing V. Sivakumar from the Speaker’s chair in the Perak state assembly.

Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan said in a statement today that that the police acted in an unjustifiable and unacceptable manner when they physically removed Sivakumar from the assembly.

The Perak state assembly sitting was thrown into a state of chaos with shoving and shouting matches between Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and Barisan Nasional lawmakers.

In a controversial move, BN lawmakers attended a sitting in one corner of the assembly which was presided over by deputy speaker Hee Yit Foong, and voted to remove Sivakumar as Speaker of the assembly.

The move will most certainly be questioned as the sitting had at that point not been declared open yet by Raja Nazrin Shah.

BN assemblymen subsequently had R Ganesan declared the new speaker. Plainclothes policemen then came into the assembly and forcibly removed Sivakumar from the speaker’s chair.

Aside from what happened in the assembly, Ragunath was also scathing in his comments about the dozens of arrests made outside the assembly, and for blocking invited guests from entering the state secretariat building.

“It is obvious that the conflicts that are currently being played out arise from the lack of clarity and certainty about which political coalition commands the majority in the Dewan Undangan Negeri Perak.

“Issues as to whether certain assemblymen should be permitted to attend the sitting, who the Speaker should be, the seating arrangements within the Dewan itself, all these and more are mere side-issues. Even when all is said and done, and the court decisions have been made, they may not reflect the will of the people.

“As such, the only solution must be to go back to the people.”


A Black Malaysia Day: Perak a Failed State

Suara Keadilan
Thursday, 07 May 2009

It appears both the police and the state secretariat officers are colluding with the politicians to complete the power grab in the state. Again the people of Perak are the biggest losers.


By Gavin Khoo

In Ipoh this morning, the BN has pulled out the last stop to complete the power grab in Perak. Many of us surely can’t help but feel confused about the rule of law and separation of powers in this country.

In this incident, it appears that a state assembly Speaker is not that commanding after all. Perak Speaker Sivakumar was even booted out of his own assembly. A vote was hastily taken to appoint a BN representative to helm the seat.

It appears both the police and the state secretariat officers are colluding with the politicians to complete the power grab in the state. Again the people of Perak are the biggest losers. The political battle to control the state assembly is done without much consideration of the people’s interest.

The Perak democratic crisis has shown that it is a failed state. A caring and responsible coalition would have anticipated that a rule without the majority support of the people cannot be carried out smoothly.

It is a distaste to know that parties and stakeholders claiming the higher moral ground are oblivious to what has happened in the state and have ignored the repercussion, negative impact and psychological scarce faced by the people in Perak.

Whatever publicity or rebranding initiative done by the PM’s team of experts will not be able to erase this negative impact of the power grab. The power grab, a very hasty decision as Mahathir put it, will come back to haunt the BN coalition in the next general election.

No wonder, many expired politicians are eating back their words by accepting important positions in the government. Perhaps knowing that their career will not last beyond the 13th general election.

It is the middle ground, a growing community of fair minded, critical and moderate Malaysians that political parties need to court to stay in power. BN does not seem to be interested in securing the middle ground.

Too bad, but I am sure many of us are now seriously considering participating directly in the political process.

It is important for the new coalition, PR, to guarantee the people that they will not go the similar way in the future. Anwar’s Sept 16 ambition for a change in government through defections had damaged slightly the reputation of his coalition. Unfortunately, this and the Kota assemblyman’s flip-flop were used by the BN to justify this power grab.

What a shame!

[Gavin Khoo Kay Peng is an economics graduate from Universiti Malaya and also has a master's degree in International Relations from University of Warwick in the UK. He is now a corporate consultant and an independent political analyst.]


Was Sivakumar’s removal lawful?

The Malaysian Insider
Thursday, 07 May 2009

Pakatan Rakyat Speaker V. Sivakumar might have been physically taken off the speaker's chair at the Perak state assembly sitting but Selangor Speaker Teng Chang Khim is questioning whether the motion to remove him is even lawful.

Teng pointed out that the motion tabled by Barisan Nasional Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir was done before the deputy speaker Hee Yit Foong sat at her assemblyman's seat while Sivakumar was still occupying the speaker's chair. Sivakumar had earlier rejected the motion twice.

"It is crystal clear that the deputy speaker has acted ultra vires the state constitution in chairing the meeting that removed YB Sivakumar as the Speaker when Sivakumar was present in the House. The motion passed to remove YB Sivakumar was therefore unconstitutional," Teng wrote in his weblog today.

He cited Article XXXVIA(3)of the Perak State Constitution which provides that whenever the Speaker is not present at the meeting of the House, another member of the House shall, in accordance with the provision of the Standing Order, be appointed to carry out the duties of the Speaker.

"Consequently, the election of the ‘new’ Speaker was unconstitutional as there was no vacancy to fill," Teng said.

At the chaotic sitting today, Sivakumar had pointed out that the motions tabled and approved by Barisan Nasional lawmakers were illegal as the assembly had yet to be declared open by Raja Nazrin Shah, the Perak Regent, in place of his father Sultan Azlan Shah.

But Zambry continued and after a couple of “adjournments” by Barisan Nasional-elected Speaker Datuk R. Ganesan, scuffles broke out and police came in to restore order during which they removed Sivakumar from his seat.

Raja Nazrin acceded to ousted Pakatan Rakyat Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin's request for the police to leave the chambers before he began his royal address. Nizar, who sat at the government bench to the right of the speaker's chair, later escorted Raja Nazrin after the royal address ended.


Sivakumar cries interference led to him being booted out

The Malaysian Insider
Thursday, 07 May 2009

Ousted Pakatan Rakyat speaker V. Sivakumar has blamed interference from outsiders led to him being dragged out and held for an hour by police during a chaotic assembly sitting, adding he does not recognise Datuk R. Ganesan’s election as the new Perak speaker.

“How come there was a directive and outsiders entered the hall, all with name tags when my request to allow seven MPs to enter was denied. It is clear there is interference in the Speaker’s powers,” he told reporters before leaving the Perak state secretariat.

The Tronoh assemblyman had sat on the speaker’s chair from morning until nearly 3pm when he was physically lifted off the chair and dragged out of the chamber by unidentified men in suits and with nametags that just said official.

He had earlier twice rejected Barisan Nasional Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir’s motion to remove him, pointing out the assembly had not started as the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah, had not given the royal address.

“I don’t recognise Ganesan as the speaker as I have rejected the motion to appoint a speaker,” Sivakumar said emphatically.

He claimed that he was brought to a room by police and he had fallen twice along the way, adding that eight people have been roughed up with some suffering torn clothes during the melee to drag him out of the chamber.

“I was held in a room for about an hour. It is clear that all directives from the Speaker was ignored. From early on, the Speaker has been blocked including preventing the press from covering the sitting,” Sivakumar said.


One black day for police in Perak

The Malaysian Insider
Thursday, 07 May 2009

IPOH, May 7 — Barbed wires and road blocks: this wasn't something the people of Ipoh were familiar with as they went about their business this morning

The police had blocked all access to the State Secretariat and this resulted in a traffic jam around the area.

Nearer to the secretariat an uneasy truce was in place as both the police and black-garbed Pakatan Rakyat supporters breakfasted together in the same neighbourhood restaurants. They threw awkward glances at each other but generally kept to themselves.

All the restaurants — except the one beneath the DAP office — were open to take advantage of the increased "traffic" in the vicinity.

At around 9am, protesters began to come out from the "closed" restaurant. They were wearing black T-shirts and held posters of the King. All were calling loudly for the state assembly to be dissolved.

Minutes later, DSP Glen Anthony noticed them and shouted, "Arrest them! Don't be soft on them, arrest them now!"

The protesters ran towards the restaurants but the police were able to nab a number of them.

Several assemblymen started to arrive and those without the secretariat-issued pass were denied entry.

When PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamarrudin was forced out of the car, she started scolding the police.

"Why do you have to shout? Why do you have to act so uncivilised?" she said.

The police officer asked her to shut up but she wouldn’t stop talking. The officer then ordered her arrest.

As the officers forcefully arrested her, she shouted back, "I know how to walk, don’t push me!"

At 9.50am, Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang and Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran were stopped by the police and asked to drive away. Both MPs and Kulasegaran's political secretary P. Sugumaran got out of the car and began arguing with the officers.

"I received an official invitation from the Speaker... I have a right to be here. This is my constituency," Kulasegaran argued.

A shouting match began between Sugumaran and the police.

It finally ended when Sugumaran was arrested. Both Lim and Kulasegaran then decided to leave.

While Lim was driven off, he told reporters: "This is a war zone. This is a national and international disgrace. Even when we have official invitations from the Speaker, we are denied entry. It is most shameful and outrageous."

A huge crowd in black T-shirts began to gather at the restaurant under the DAP office. The police regrouped and Anthony began to warn the protesters to disperse through the speakerphone.

"We have court orders to arrest anybody within 500 metres of the fence of the SUK. I am giving you 10 seconds to disperse," he warned.

After counting to 10, the police began to swarm into the shop and forced it to close. Both protesters and innocent bystanders were arrested.

"What are you doing? Can't you see I am drinking. I just want to minum-lah. You can't arrest me," a customer complained before being dragged away by the police.

The police began to scout the area for protesters and made more arrests. They included Kubang Kerian MP Salahuddin Ayub.

"What we want is justice and we are willing to risk anything for it. We don’t mind losing as long as there is democracy," Salahuddin told reporters before he was arrested.

The police tried to close down another restaurant but the owner refused and asked for compensation.

The police finally gave up and began to buy drinks from the shop. The rest of the riot and police officers then began to disperse with some of them taking group photos.


BN-PR at odds over assembly sitting

By Deborah Loh

Thursday 7 May 2009

IPOH, 7 May 2009: The stand-off continues. The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) considers the Perak assembly sitting today as never having taken place, while the Barisan Nasional (BN) claims it did everything by the book.

The PR said it would discuss possible legal action against the actions by BN assemblypersons today which resulted in speaker V Sivakumar being physically ejected from the House to be replaced by a non-elected speaker R. Ganesan from the MIC.

"The sitting never happened. Everything they (the BN) did is completely illegitimate. As far as we're concerned, Pakatan is still the government and Sivakumar is still the speaker," embattled Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin told a press conference after the sitting was adjourned indefinitely.

He said the BN motions to remove Sivakumar, to change the membership of three assembly committees, and to declare the 3 March tree assembly unlawful, were illegal because at the time, the sitting had not been convened.

Nizar said the real sitting only convened after the Raja Muda of Perak Raja Nazrin Shah gave his royal address, which ended at about 4pm.

"We don't acknowledge whatever happened before the Raja Muda gave his address. Only after he spoke, the sitting opened, and then it was adjourned," said Nizar.
He added that Sivakumar had already rejected the motions a day earlier on 6 May in his speaker's chambers, and as such, they should not be raised in the assembly.

Pakatan anarchy

Meanwhile, the BN has accused PR representatives of behaving like hooligans. Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir described the PR assemblypersons in the sitting today as "anarchic".

"They crossed the floor over to our side to harass us. We didn't say anything when Sivakumar asked us to sit on the opposition's side of the chamber as we just wanted the sitting to proceed. They left their seats and in an uncivilised manner, they attacked the BN representatives and the independents to create a chaotic situation," Zambry said at a separate press conference.
Zambry also accused PR reps for blocking the Sergeant at Arms from carrying out Ganesan's instructions to remove Sivakumar.

He said Ganesan had no choice but to ask the police to help remove Sivakumar.

Zambry defended Ganesan's call for the police to intervene in restoring order to the sitting based on Standing Order 90, which allows the speaker to take any action to restore order in the house so long as such action does not contravene provisions in the Standing Orders.

"In the running of a democracy, we cannot allow the tyranny of the minority to decide for the majority," Zambry said.

Police in the House

Nizar hit out at the BN for using the police to eject Sivakumar from the chambers.

"How can police be allowed into the House? They are supported by the BN machinery. The house has been desecrated and Perak is a police state," Nizar said.

A few PR assemblypersons intend to lodge police reports on Sivakumar's removal tomorrow.

DAP Perak chief Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham said that today's sitting showed that "there is no rule of law, only that might is right."

Sivakumar, at the same press conference, said every order he issued to the Sergeant at Arms today was ignored, but noted that the Sergeant obeyed Ganesan's instructions.

He said after he was ejected from the chambers, police kept him in a room within the state secretariat building. He was left there and not asked any questions.

Sivakumar's microphone was also turned off from the main sound system controls while he was seated in the speaker's chair earlier.

Zambry, when asked whether this was fair, said, "My microphone was also turned off. Every time I tried to speak they (PR reps) came over and tried to stop me. "

Raja Nazrin's whisper

Just before Raja Nazrin delivered his royal address, he was talking to Ngeh and Nizar.

Asked about what the prince had said, Nizar's reply was: "Tuanku said he has high regard for the Pakatan Rakyat but he does not want to get involved in this political fight. He just wants to be able to deliver his address."

At the time when Raja Nazrin entered the chambers and took his place at the royal seat, the PR assemblypersons were standing on the floor as a sign of protest, while the BN reps were in their seats.

After their brief talk with the prince, Ngeh and Nizar asked the PR assemblypersons to return to their seats and all obeyed.


Perak police slammed

By Shanon Shah

Thursday 7 May 2009

PETALING JAYA, 7 May 2009: The police's forceful ejection of Perak speaker V. Sivakumar from the state assembly today has been slammed by the Malaysian Bar Council and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

"The police acted in an unjustifiable and unacceptable manner," said Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan in a statement.

Ragunath also condemned the arrests of those gathered around the state assembly building.

According to an e-mail alert by rights group Suaram, police arrested more than 50 MPs, state assemblypersons and members of the public today.

The Star later confirmed that there were 64 arrests in total, and 13 have already been released.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Selangor information chief Datin Paduka Dr Tan Yee Kew said, "The police, who acted like gangsters, were obviously used by the Barisan Nasional (BN) to wrestle power in Perak. The police, as civil servants, should not have interfered in the sitting of the Perak state assembly."

Ragunath said, "It is obvious that the conflicts currently being played out arise from the lack of clarity and certainty about which political coalition commands the majority in the [assembly]."

He said issues such as whether certain assemblypersons should be permitted to attend the sitting, who the speaker should be, and the seating arrangements within the assembly, were "mere side issues".

"As such, the only solution must be to go back to the people," he said.